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One of the major themes of Gaines's A Lesson Before Dying is the concept of justice in the face of racism. The story is set in a small town in Louisiana, and the residents of the town and surrounding area harbor racist thoughts towards others. Jefferson is accused of killing a white man because he was in the area at the time, and even though evidence suggests otherwise, Jefferson is found guilty by the jury during his trial. Further, Jefferson's family receives a difficult time when trying to visit him in jail. Jefferson has been used as a scapegoat for the community's hatred, and this causes him to wonder whether or not God only loves white people. While in jail, Jefferson considers his faith, and through Grant's help, he dies having learned the lesson that he was treated unfairly because people are corrupt, not because God does not love him.
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