Setting in “A Lesson Before Dying”
November 23 2018
Setting effect’s the way the reader perceives the story. In the novel, “A Lesson Before Dying” by Ernest J. Gaines, racism is a central theme. Without the setting and the elements within the setting, the theme of racism and segregation would not be fully delivered and would be no where near as impactful. There are three main elements of setting in the novel that affect the theme. Bayonne Louisiana, The Plantation and the 1940s all affect the way the novel progresses and the way the elements of the novel move together. Capturing setting correctly is critical to having a successful novel and Gaines did exactly that.
Bayonne, Louisiana is a vibrant town, full of life, and also full of segregation. A large portion of the novel takes place in Bayonne, it is where the jail is as well as Grants girlfriend, Vivian. When travelling to visit his girlfriend, Grant discusses the segregation in the town, “There, instead of houses and trees, there were fishing wharves, boat docks, nightclubs, and restaurants for whites. There were one or two nightclubs for coloured but they were not very good.” (Gaines 25). Gaines makes a point of describing where services for whites and compared to where they are for coloured people, “…uptown for white…back of town for colored” (Gaines 25), this is repeated multiple times throughout the paragraph describing the town. Many people are aware that Louisiana has had a history of racism for over a century. Having the story set in Louisiana really sets the theme of racism. If it were set in New York City, which is a city that as a society, we do not view as having a racist past whether it has or hasn’t would not have had the same impact as Louisiana.
Living on the plantation was a source of segregation for many families. The plantation is a large operation in which people take up crops, the workers were often African American. The main goal on the plantation is work, so there are not enough resources for anything that does not relate to work. The children’s school and the church is not a priority for the white family that owns the plantation, therefore, “My classroom was the church” (Gaines 34). Grant, who is the o...