Magic Realism

.. response: “Everything you sent me to school for, you’re stripping me of it, I told my aunt… The humiliation I had to go through, going into that man’s kitchen… Now going up to that jail… Anything to humiliate me. All the things you wanted me to escape by going to school.

Years ago, Professor Antoine told me that if I stayed here, they were going to break me down to the nigger I was born to be. But he didn’t tell me that my aunt would help them do it.” Grant tells Vivian how Miss Emma needs a memory of Jefferson standing as a man. Vivian can not understand where Grant is coming from. “We black men..stay here in the South and are broken, or we run away and leave them alone to look after the children and themselves. So each time a male child is born, they hope he will be the one to change this vicious circle–which he never does.

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Because even though he wants to change it, and maybe even tries to change it, it is too heavy a burden because of all the others who have run away and left their burdens behind… I can give them something that neither a husband, a father, nor a grandfather ever did, so they want to hold on as long as they can. Not realizing that their holding on will break me too,” says Grant. As he struggles to impart a sense of pride to Jefferson before he must face his death, he learns an important lesson as well: heroism is not always expressed through action–sometimes the simple act of resisting the inevitable is enough. “Yet they must believe.

They must believe, if only to free the mind, if not the body. Only when the mind is free has the body a chance to be free,” says Reverend Ambrose. At the end when Jefferson walks to his death he becomes a demonstration of pride and solidarity. As Grant said in the book as Jefferson walks to his death, he becomes “the bravest man in that room.” Jefferson has found his freedom even at the time of his death. Grant connects his reading with the situation he now faces, of trying to convert Jefferson, and necessarily to convert himself, to the belief in responsibilities beyond his own immediate needs or feelings.

Thinking of Jefferson just before the execution, Grant asks: “Have I done anything to make you not believe? If I have, please forgive me for being a fool.” Reflecting on how Reverand Ambrose is able “to use their God to give him strength,” Grant thinks now of the “old mans” fortitude, yet he still refuses to kneel and pray with his students. Following the execution, a butterfly appears in the field of bull grass and flies away, signaling the passage of Jeffersons soul. Still uncertain of his own belief, Grant nonetheless tells his new friend Paul: “You have to believe to be a teacher.” The story proves that even in the past blacks were guilty of a crime before they even entered the courtroom. This is because then, the jury was chosen of all registered voters which were all white men. A black man never had the chance of being acquitted. To an interviewers question about the audience that Ernest Gaines hoped to reach, the author responded: ” I write for the African American youth in this country, especially the south, so that they can know who they are and where they came from and take pride in it.

. . . . and for the white youth of this country, and especially the south, because unless he knows his neighbor of three hundred years, he only knows half his history.” Quite similar to Ernest Gainess novel, “Dead Man Walking,” is the story of a spiritual woman who embarks on a dangerous journey with a convicted killer and the profound changes it makes in her life.

Honoring the request of a lonely and desperate man, Sister Helen writes to Matthew, the condemned killer of two teenage lovers, and is entirely unprepared for the relationship which will follow. At their first meeting, Poncelet speculates aloud about Sister Helen’s sex life. His conversations with the nun reveal a man filled with hate and resentment–one who’s completely remorseless for his crimes. Sister Helen tells a priest, “I don’t know if I like him,” but its through her eyes that were finally able to perceive Poncelet as something other than a monster. Confronted with the anger of the community and the private pain of his victims parents, Sister Helen overcomes her own fears to fight for the life and soul of Matthew Poncelet. The grieving parents of Poncelets victims force Sister Helen to relive the last day of their childrens lives. In a flashback sequence, we see Matthew smiling as he brutally murders the teenagers.

When the date is set for Matthews execution, he asks Sister Helen to be his spiritual advisor and she complies. As she comes to see the terrified human beneath Matts bold and remorseless facade, Sister Helen becomes increasingly disturbed, not only by the terrible anguish he suffers during the long countdown, but, by the rage of the victims families, who seek retribution for their unbearable loss. With this film, we are able to see the difficult challenge of bringing fairness, honor and voices to the families of the victims. With the clock ticking away the final days before his scheduled execution, she struggles for the life, the dignity, and the soul of a confused and angry man. In the end, it is her faith and her fierce courage that sustains her when she stands with Matthew and with the victims families. The movie does compare with the novel in the sense that there are men waiting to be executed, and the fact that they are both trying to cope and learn the consequence of their action.

In the novel, Jefferson is the one being taught from Grant and in the movie, Sister Helen teaches Matthew. This difference, however, is the fact that in the novel, Jefferson is a black man while Matthew is a white man. Like I already stated, it is easier to convict a black man over a white man especially around the time that the novel was written. Garcia Marquz adds a lot of magic realism into his novel and there was more of the American Moral realism that went into the movie. American Moral realism I can describe is basically how it sounds.

In my own words, it is about morals and learning a lesson. The novel and the movie are opposites, but like I said they are alike. In the movie, I enjoyed how Sister Helen was reliving what Matthew had done. She was picturing it in her own mind. The movie had a very Christian aspect about it.

The movie was more on religion than the novel making Jefferson into a man. The reason why the movie has much more religion in it is because the women who helps of Matthew is Sister Helen who is a nun and she does state a few lines out of the bible to him. Also, she has the Christian religion because although she knows he has done a terrible thing, she is learning and trying to forgive him for his sin like a lot of Christians tend to do. In A Lesson Before Dying, Ernest Gaines adopts a more affirming attitude toward the entire range of Southern traditional rural culture, and he finds in this culture, which includes African-American religion, respect for elders, loyalty to family and neighbors, and common-sense morality. The importance of A Lesson Before Dying rests in the novels acceptance of a Southern folk culture about which Gaines has demonstrated considerable discrepancy through most of his career.

In this novel, Gaines has achieved a greater distinctness and outlook in his presentation of the workings of an entire cultural system. As a result of his discovery of the traditional culture as a basis for authority, he appears more hopeful. In conclusion, I have learned a lot about the works of Ernest Gaines and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Also, I have formed an understanding on what magic realism and American Moral Realisim are. While doing research for this paper I found many other interesting books and works of other authors that I have looked at just on a personal level.

Both the novel and the movie were educational issues and I think for myself there was a lesson that was learned. Today, I know the African American culture is still judged, but I dont think it is nearly on the level that it used to be. The movie also proved that it isnt just black men that are the accused or are waiting on death row. I think that is a very stereotypical attitude of many people. I worked hard on forming this paper at the best of my ability and I feel as though I did a good job.

Like I said, this was a paper I enjoyed doing because I learned a lot from it and also did other readings on the topics aside from using it in my paper.