A Lesson Before Dying By Ernest J. Gaines Character Analysis Rev. Mose Ambrose

Rev. Ambrose defies the stereotype of the black preacher so obsessed with preaching the gospel and extolling the virtues of life in the hereafter that he ignores the immediate needs of his people. Although Rev. Ambrose believes he has been called by God to lead his people out of the darkness of despair into the light of salvation, he has not lost sight of their everyday needs. Rev. Ambrose exemplifies a minister who is truly dedicated to serving others. Like the proverbial shepherd, he is out in the community, tending his flock. It is Rev. Ambrose who stands by Miss Emma, offering moral support as well as spiritual guidance. It is Rev. Ambrose who confronts Grant concerning his lack of faith. And it is Rev. Ambrose who stands by Jefferson during his final days and witnesses his execution.

Rev. Ambrose realizes that Grant looks down on him as being an uneducated man, but he is not afraid to stand up to Grant and put him in his place. As symbolized by his name, Rev. Ambrose is a leader (like Moses) who is bent on delivering his people from the bondage of mental slavery and seeks to provide them with spiritual food (ambrosia). Like Miss Emma, Rev. Ambrose does not allow pride to stand in his way when it comes to getting his work done. He is also willing to overlook his personal needs in order to meet the needs of others. For example, while Grant steadfastly refuses Inez's offer of coffee, Rev. Ambrose accepts the coffee and joins her at the kitchen table, perhaps sensing that she needs some company. Similarly, while Grant is furious at being forced to enter the Pichot mansion through the back door, Rev. Ambrose ignores this insult and focuses on the issue at hand: obtaining visiting privileges for Grant.

To some, the reverend's quiet, deferential behavior might label him as a stereotypical "Uncle Tom." But as we watch him interact with whites, we realize that his prime motive is survival and getting what he wants for his community, even if it means enduring humiliation.

Although he is uneducated, he is wise and compassionate. He is supported by his faith. He has the courage to face reality. He is a simple, humble man who provides a counterpart to Grant's pride and arrogance.

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