ISU Journal Entry 1: A Lesson Before Dying The main theme of the novel A Lesson Before Dying revolves mainly around the issue of racism, between the black and white communities. The story takes place during the period where black people were free but were considered minority and looked down upon, therefore the tension between the two races are expected. Even though a slavery type of lifestyle, fending for the white people, is still a reality for a portion of the black community many members of the society are becoming more and more independent. For example, the narrator, Grant Wiggins, is a teacher who has had the privilege of going out of state to receive a university degree. With his knowledge his aunt and Miss Emmy believe that he is the only one who can make Jefferson, an innocent bystander of a white man's death who has received the death penalty, into a man before the arrival of his death. The white folks described Jefferson as a "hog' at his trial in court. In this case hog symbolizes as to how the white people of this small Cajun community in Louisiana describe the blacks. This is one of the symbols used in this novel repeatedly. This symbol has great meaning to it and is used many times for a purpose. It shows how Jefferson feels about himself in prison and it has a great effect to it as well. The setting of this novel takes place in a Cajun town of Louisiana where it is divided into to two main areas for the white folks and the black. The area for the black people is described in more detail because most of the action is taken place there. It is described as plantation field district where there is a church nearby and everyone knows everyone else and everyone knows each other's business.