A Lesson Before Dying Mr Wiggins Essay

A Lesson Before Dying: Mr. Wiggins Essay, Research Paper

A Lesson Before Dying: Mr. Wiggins

In A Lesson Before Dying, Mr. Grant Wiggins’ life crises were the center

of the story. Although he was supposed to make Jefferson into a man, he himself

became more of one as a result. Not to say that Jefferson was not in any way

transformed from the “hog” he was into an actual man, but I believe this story

was really written about Mr. Wiggins.

Mr. Wiggins improved as a person greatly in this book, and that helped

his relationships with other people for the most part. At the start of the

book, he more or less hated Jefferson, but after a while he became his friend

and probably the only person Jefferson felt he could trust. The turning point

in their relationship was the one visit in which Jefferson told Mr. Wiggins that

he wanted a gallon of ice cream, and that he never had enough ice cream in his

whole life. At that point Jefferson confided something in Mr. Wiggins,

something that I didn’t see Jefferson doing often at all in this book.

“I saw a slight smile come to his face, and it was not a bitter smile.

Not bitter at all”; this is the first instance in which Jefferson breaks his

somber barrier and shows emotions. At that point he became a man, not a hog. As

far as the story tells, he never showed any sort of emotion before the shooting

or after up until that point. A hog can’t show emotions, but a man can. There

is the epiphany of the story, where Mr. Wiggins realizes that the purpose of

life is to help make the world a better place, and at that time he no longer

minds visiting Jefferson and begins becoming his friend.

Mr. Wiggins’ relationship with his Aunt declined in this story, although

it was never very strong. His Aunt treated him like he should be a hog and

always obey, yet she wanted him to make a hog into a man. His Aunt was not a

very nice person, she would only show kindness towards people who shared many

of her views, and therefore was probably a very hard person to get along with.

The way Mr. Wiggins regarded his relationships most likely would have

been different were he white. Mr. Wiggins feels, and rightly so, that several

white men try to mock or make a fool of him throughout the story. This was a

time of racial discrimination with much bigotry, so if the story took place in

the present, it would be much different. In fact, there probably would have not

even been a book because in the modern day, and honest and just jury would have

found him innocent due to the lack of evidence.

It wasn’t really clear what sort of situation Mr. Wiggins was in

regarding money, but he could not have been too well off because he needed to

borrow money to purchase a radio for Jefferson, and he commented about the

Rainbow Cafe: “When I was broke, I could always get a meal and pay later, and

the same went for the bar.” I suppose he had enough money to get by, but not

much extra. As the book progresses he probably had less money to work with due

to the money he was spending to buy the radio, comic books, and other items

for Jefferson.

Mr. Wiggins seemed to be well respected by the community, and he felt

superior to other African Americans because he was far more educated than they

were. That makes Mr. Wiggins guilty of not practicing what he preaches,

although Jefferson probably made it clearer to him that the less intelligent

are still humans with feelings. At the start of the book, Mr. Wiggins did not

understand this. He went to visit Jefferson because Miss Emma and his Aunt more

or less forced him to do it. He really had no motivation except that he would

be shunned by his Aunt if he did not comply.

The whole process of Mr. Wiggins’ development and the plot of this story

both spawn from the crimes of two characters with no other relevance to the

story. After the police found Jefferson at the liquor store with the dead

bodies all around, he was of course taken to trial and the times being what

they were, he was convicted with very little doubt that he would be found

innocent. Miss Emma, his godmother was afraid that he would die a hog and have

lived a meaningless life. She wanted him “Not to crawl to the white man, but

to get up and walk to him at the end.”

At first Mr. Wiggins was not very concerned about Jefferson, he just

wanted to pass the time he had to spend with him, but then after a while he

began to think of what it would feel like to be a dead man, and what he could do

to make the time Jefferson had left to be the best they could for him. This was

the greatest achievement Mr. Wiggins accomplished in the entire book. He

managed to be able to have pity upon Jefferson without empathy. After the point

in which he discussed the ice cream and the radio with Jefferson, and Jefferson

admitted for the first time that he was more than a hog, Mr. Wiggins truly


Mr. Wiggins developed greatly during the course of this story, along

with other characters featured in the story. Vivian met new people and

increased the quality of her relationship with Mr. Wiggins, Miss Emma finally

got to see someone stand for her, Tante Lou learned that she had a decent

nephew after all, and Jefferson got off of his four legs and stood.