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A Lesson before Dying

by Ernest J. Gaines

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What points link A Lesson Before Dying to the Oregon Death with Dignity Act?

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One topic to consider when debating the pros and cons of "dignity in death" are the "lessons" Grant and Jefferson learn through the experience of waiting for the execution. If Jefferson (and Grant, for that matter) had his way, he probably would have chosen to die much earlier in the story; however, had this happened, many characters would have lost out the experience of watching Jefferson become a man, transcending race, and eventually dying with dignity.

In Claude McKay's poem "If We Must Die," he writes about dying nobly, proving that "the monsters we defy, Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!" Humans often must experience growth through pain and hardship; if we can die when we choose, we may deprive our souls as well as those we leave behind of important lessons.

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An interesting and quite valid question. I would take the paper in several different directions through using the book.

First, I would summarize the breadth of community response to the upcoming execution early in the paper, and would use it as a way to introduce a claim that establishes common ground, namely that how a community decides who dies, when, and how plays an essential role in determining who they are.

Second, I would use the effort the community put into educating those involved as a way to introduce the importance of educating everyone on the complexities involved with the Death With Dignity act. This would give you a chance to move out of the pro/con deadlock, and to argue for a need to educate all and have public debates, so that everyone understands what's involved.

Third, I'd use the emotions expressed in the diary as a way to introduce how people get ready for death. That should help you address things like hospice counseling.

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