Though the title would suggest otherwise, Jefferson is the hero in A Lesson Before Dying. Not only does he overcome many hardships to accomplish something, but he does something for many others by doing this. He indeed is the teacher of Grant more than Grant is his teacher. Also, he secures the happiness of his loved ones, Miss Emma and Tante Lou by doing what they want from him: for him to believe that he is a man and not a hog. He becomes a hero after a long and interesting process for three reasons.
The most important thing one must do to become a hero is to overcome a challenging obstacle. In Jefferson's case, the obstacle was the fact that his state-appointed attorney had called him a hog and Jefferson had believed it. With the help of Grant and many others in his environment, he realized the truth- that only he could control whether he would die a man or not. This was accomplished through much listening, thinking, and talking. Anyone would have been able to know that he had become a hero when he muttered the powerful words from the electric chair, "Tell Nannan I walked"(254). .
The next step in becoming a hero is almost as important as the first. Throughout the ages, anyone who is a hero has been someone who helped others in some way. Unconsciously, Jefferson pushed Grant to step outside of the box and teach things besides "readin", writin", and "rithmetic;" he didn't make it easy for Grant. As he put it to Grant, "I"m just a old hog they fattening up to kill for Christmas"(83). Also, he made sure Miss Emma and Tante Lou were happy, knowing that he died a man. This was also one of his major motivations to turn his life around. In addition, Jefferson touched white people such as Paul Bonin and the sheriff. Paul became a person who respected black people and the sheriff seemed to change his opinion on whether or not Jefferson had committed the crime by the end of the story. .
Finally, the often forgotten integral step in securing one's place as a hero.