In the novel A Lesson Before Dying Grant Wiggins struggles with society because of his race, prejudices, and the woman he loves. He is angry about being a black man in a racist white community. He canâ€™t help his own prejudice against mulattoâ€™s (part white part African American), Miss Emma the aunt of a convicted black man is asking Grant to save her nephew, and to top it all off the woman he is in love with will not leave the South with him. Grantâ€™s struggle in society is important to the novel because it helps him to figure out his flaws and allow him to continue on living. To understand the importance of Grantâ€™s struggles one must first understand the struggles themselves.
Grantâ€™s partial racism towards mulattos comes from his teacher Matthew Antoine. Antoine was a mulatto and like most of them felt superior to blacks. This is the same reason Grant dislikes the South. He lived and worked on a plantation all his life and his dream is to leave the South for good. Preferably with the woman he loves.
Grant has fallen in love with a woman named Vivian. She is a mulatto and a strong Christian. Grant knows they must keep their love a secret or else society would not accept it since she is not yet divorced and has children. Society has already turned down the fact he is Atheist. But how is all this important to the novel?.
Grant was asked by Miss Emma to help her nephew Jefferson, who was sentenced to death by electrocution, to die with dignity. Grant is unsure if he can help Jefferson because he doesnâ€™t know how to â€œhelp Jefferson die when he himself does not know how to live.â€ Grantâ€™s assignment to help Jefferson die with dignity has taught him some important things too.
Seeing Jefferson the way he was for so long awaiting his execution made Grant notice some things about himself. He was able to see his hypocrisy. Grant was always partial towards mulattos for acting superior to blacks when he himself was doing the same to his students.