Saving a soul is the task handed to a reluctant Grant Wiggins in Ernest J. Gaines’ A Lesson Before Dying. Coerced into visiting the wrongfully condemned Jefferson, schoolteacher Grant does not see how he can bring the good word, when he himself has grown bitter and faithless in segregated Louisiana. But Jefferson has been likened to a hog in his courtroom trial, and no man should die without his full humanity. As Grant repeatedly visits Jefferson, trying to restore Jefferson’s sense of humanity so he can understand the meaning of his death, Grant breaks through the man’s hardened shell, and the lives of both men are enriched. In the days before Jefferson is executed, many people come to honor him, and Jefferson realizes that his death is meaningful and no ordinary death. As the execution takes place, Grant has his students kneel by their desks in honor of Jefferson’s passing, and correspondingly, the people of the community, like Grant and Jefferson, have learned the lesson of their own humanity. Just as Jefferson dies with dignity, those whom he has touched will shoulder responsibilities and face injustice bravely, and Wiggins’ novel ends on this affecting note. A rich and touching look at racial prejudices and the human dignity, Gaines' novel is a contemporary classic, worthy of an indepth classroom study. A possible coupling piece to this tale would be the similarily excellent To Kill a Mockingbird.