In Ernest J. Gaines's 1993 novel A Lesson Before Dying, a young innocent black man named Jefferson is charged with and convicted of murder. During the trial, Jefferson's attorney uses the defense that Jefferson is too stupid to commit such a crime—that he's no smarter than a hog—which makes Jefferson question his worth as a human being.
The story takes place in the segregated South. In the first chapter, Grant Wiggins, a local schoolteacher and the only educated black man in the town, recalls the events leading up to the trial. In chapter 2, Jefferson's highly religious godmother, Miss Emma, visits Grant and pleads with him to visit Jefferson in prison and help him regain his human dignity.
Grant invariably believes that society is racist and that the entire trial is a sham, a circus with a predetermined outcome. Jefferson is going to die no matter what, so what's the point? He resists at first. However, Miss Emma's persistence prevails, and at the beginning of chapter 9, Grant takes Miss Emma with him to visit Jefferson in the Bayonne jail, where he's being kept.