Grant’s initial attempts to reach Jefferson were based primarily on the idea of appealing to Jefferson’s humanity in that if Grant were to be in Jefferson’s position, it would be such appeals that would be most likely to succeed. Grant was initially preoccupied with showing Jefferson how humans ought to act, but these initial attempts ultimately failed because Jefferson did not view himself as a human being. At the most basic level, Jefferson did not value himself nor see himself as human. He had wholly accepted the narratives he had been told by the community and larger culture throughout his life. He had lost all care for himself and for anyone else for that matter. Not worthy of anything, but also not held to any standard of moral action or responsibility, as he viewed himself as more or less a “hog,” not a human. Hogs do not have responsibilities or duties. This can be most clearly seen in a conversation before Grant’s purchase of the radio as a gift for Jefferson. “’Jefferson, do you know what ‘moral’ means?’ I asked him. He looked at me, knowing that I knew what he was thinking about. ‘Obligation?’ I said. ‘Do you know what obligation means?’ He didn’t answer. But he kept looking at me. ‘No matter how bad off we are,’ I said, ‘we still owe something. You owe something, Jefferson. Not to me. Surely not to that sheriff over there. But to your godmother. You must show her something, understanding, some kind of love.’ ‘That’s for you mans,’ he said. ‘I ain’t no man…Hogs don’t give nothing. Hogs don’t leave nothing,’ he said.” Grants pre-radio attempts focused on Jefferson’s humanity, but Jefferson did not claim his humanity and thus could not relate. The obligations of which Grant speaks have no value, and in Jefferson’s eyes, this void of obligation is ultimately who and what he is. He does not take care of himself; he does not enjoy the food that is sent to him, even his favorite fried chicken. Jefferson continues to live a biological existence, but he does not have Life.
The change comes with the gift of a simple radio which signifies something much more to Jefferson, as the radio represents something of worth and value. Grant is no longer trying to convince Jefferson of his value but instead has given him something of value. This value exchange leads to a natural process for Jefferson where he regains his humanity through an object he takes pride in. His prized possession’s intrinsic value transferred and reawakened the once lost value in himself.
Jefferson was changed by the radio because it caused him to look at himself differently, as a man, as a human being. This transformation radically changed the way he viewed the world and himself. He saw himself as something more than he did before, as a person instead of a hog. He saw someone in himself that had duties and obligations. Jefferson saw himself as a human with singularly unique personhood and once that change had occurred, Grant was able to connect with him.
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