In the beginning of the novel A Lesson Before Dying Jefferson's lawyer in an attempt to defend him calls him a pig. He indicates that Jefferson has no ability to think so he could not have done things with thought. He is trying to help but had deprived Jefferson of his own self-worth as a man.
Grant’s aunt wants Grant to help Jefferson to feel like a man before he dies. The idea of what makes a man is central to the idea of the story. As Grant helps to teach and educate Jefferson he helps to establish a bond with the man. As Jefferson has the chance to talk with Grant and learn he becomes more aware that he is a man with ideas and thoughts and not an animal.
Grant helps Jefferson to identify himself as a man by giving him a voices to be heard. Being a man is about recognizing that one is a man first. Grant in many ways had not fully recognized his own manhood.