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Jefferson is convicted of murder and sentenced to death by execution. During his sentence, the defense lawyer refers to Jefferson as a "hog", claiming that it is senseless to execute someone who qualifies as an animal rather than a human. Jefferson internalizes his lawyer's words and loses his dignity, seeing himself as a worthless sub-human whose death does not matter.
Both Rev. Ambrose and Grant attempt to help Jefferson face his impending death sentence. Their differences highlight themes of acceptance, community, and education that resonate throughout the novel.
The Reverend represents the Church and its role in defining selfhood in the African American community. His primary concern is Jefferson's salvation and he imparts his lessons on religion, heaven and God not only to Jefferson but also to Grant. While the Reverend has little formal education, he plays an important role in the community by encouraging faith and the observance of rituals that connect the community to the past.
Grant, on the other hand, is an educated man who lacks religious conviction. His primary concern is with Jefferson's dignity. Grant wants Jefferson to comprehend his humanity as he faces the electric chair. Grant opposes the Reverend's religious conviction, and his lack of faith as well as his education alienate him from the community.
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