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I have a question on Religious Symbolism in A Lesson Before Dying.. help please :D...

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rollingstones... | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 31, 2009 at 2:12 PM via web

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I have a question on Religious Symbolism in A Lesson Before Dying.. help please :D click

For all the book's religious symbolism, the central character is a man without faith. Grant's refusal to attend church has deeply hurt his aunt and antagonized Reverend Ambrose, whose religion Grant at first dismisses as a sham. Yet at the book's climax he admits that Ambrose "is braver than I," and he has his pupils pray in the hours before Jefferson's death. What kind of faith does Grant acquire in the course of this book? Why does the Reverend emerge as the stronger of the two men?

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sallyjocook | High School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 31, 2010 at 12:23 PM (Answer #1)

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Much of the lesson Jefferson must learn is humility.  He already is too well-acquainted with its evil cousin:  humiliation.  He learns that a man of dignity is one who puts another's wishes and interests before his own.  We know Jefferson is gaining his own dignity when he agrees to eat Miss Emma's food only because doing so brings her joy.

Grant must always learn a parallel lesson as his pupil.  In asking the students to pray and complimenting Ambrose's strength are the outward evidences of Grant's humility:  his willingness to put others needs, wishes, and interests in front of his own. 

I am not sure Jefferson and Grant gain a faith in the way Ambrose would want, but they do gain an attitude of genuine humility which is the cornerstone of a Christ motif.

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