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A LESSON BEFORE DYING: LITERARY ANALYSIS / CHAPTER SUMMARY
It was cold and rainy the day of the Christmas program. Despite the
weather, there was a good turnout. When Reverend Ambrose opened with prayer
he asked God to bless the unbelievers, meaning Grant. The children sang
Christmas songs and read poems. They had also decorated a little pine
tree a placed a single gift underneath it. Grant had instructed the children
to dedicate their performance to Jefferson, and the gift was a sweater
and wool socks for him. Last of all was the Nativity pageant, with a white
alabaster doll as the Christ child. Afterwards, the children lined up
back stage to hear what Grant thought of the performance. He remarked
that it had all gone well, but inside he was not happy. The play had been
the same this year as it was every year. The play involved the same mistakes
in grammar, the same costumes, refreshments, and people. He knew next
year that it would be the same still. Vivian believed things were changing,
but Grant couldnít see how they were changing. He stood alone and
looked at the present under the tree.
The Christmas program symbolizes the hopeless outlook of black life
in the South. Despite his efforts, Grant sees that these children will
have lives exactly like their parents, who had lives exactly like their
parents. He feels there is little point in continuing to teach if black
will always be uneducated field workers and second-class citizens. These
reflections haunt and isolate Grant, he sits by himself with a plate of
food while everyone else mingles together.
In February, Grant was grading papers in the school when Farrel Jareau
entered and informed him that he was wanted at the Pichot house right
away. Grant left a student in charge and walked up to the house. When
he arrived he found Reverend Ambrose already waiting in the kitchen. A
few minutes later the Sheriff arrived and Inez (the maid) came into the
kitchen to say they need to go up front. In his whole life, Grant had
never been in any other room but the kitchen. He and the Reverend sat
down on the couch as the Sheriff informed them that the Governor had set
the date. Jefferson would be executed the second Friday after Easter.
Sheriff Guidry had already informed Jefferson, who took the news calmly.
Grant would still be allowed to visit the prison, but was warned to avoid
aggravating Jefferson. On the Reverendís recommendation, the Sheriff calls
to ask Dr. Gillory to visit Miss Emma after she received the news. During
the phone conversation, Grant ponders how Jefferson came to be sentenced
to death the same time as the Savior. As they left, Reverend Ambrose headed
to Miss Emmaís house, but Grant was not ready to face her. He began walking
down to the river, and didnít return home until it was almost dark.
Grant is constantly complaining that helping Jefferson gives the white men
an opportunity to humiliate him. Yet when Sheriff Guidry needs to inform
Grant and Reverend Ambrose about the date of execution, Henri Pichot brings
the two black men from the kitchen into his living room. This is an unprecedented
show of respect, which elevates the status of both men. Furthermore, Jeffersonís
execution date is close to Easter-time, hinting that he is to be a Savior-like
figure to the people in the quarter.
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Strate, Shane. "TheBestNotes on A Lesson Before Dying".
. 09 May 2017