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A LESSON BEFORE DYING: PLOT SUMMARY / LESSON PLANS
After the visit, Grant went back to the Rainbow Club to wait for Vivian. He was excited about how well he and Jefferson communicated, how Jefferson had eaten some of the gumbo. He couldn’t wait to tell Vivian about it. Now that things were going well with Jefferson he hoped it would improve his relationship with Vivian also. He wouldn’t, however, mention the envy he saw in Reverend Ambrose’s face when Jefferson ate some of the gumbo. He wondered what Jefferson would write on his tablet, questions or comments?
As he sat at his table he overheard the conversation of two mulatto
bricklayers sitting at the bar. Mulattoes were extremely prejudiced against
Blacks, and would do anything to get out of working alongside them in
the fields. Grant realized these two were talking about Jefferson, saying
they wished he’d been executed months ago. He tried not to listen, not
to let these two ruin his good mood, but finally he’d had enough. He walked
over to the bar and told the two men to shut-up, and a brawl ensued. The
bar manager tried to intervene, sending his wife out to get Vivian, and
finally knocking Grant unconscious because he wouldn’t stop fighting.
When Grant regained consciousness Vivian was standing over him, trying
to help him limp out of the bar.
Now that Jefferson is showing some improvement, the rivalry between Grant and Reverend Ambrose is intensifying. These are Jefferson’s last hours, and the Reverend believes he should be devoting himself to God instead of listening to the ‘sin box’. The Reverend appears jealous that Grant has brought about such a change in Jefferson’s demeanor, and perplexed that someone he considers to be a sinner could be displaying such good works.
Clearly, Grant’s attitudes toward Jefferson have changed. At first,
he wanted nothing to do with the situation; now he is picking fights in
bars with people who are insulting Jefferson. Grant helps Jefferson because
it is one method for fighting against the racism in the South that limits
him to teaching school. He thinks that by punching out these two mulatto
bricklayers, he is really attacking their racist attitudes towards all
blacks. It is a misguided attempt to be a hero.
Vivian takes Grant back to her house. She tells him he’ll have to spend
the night there because he’s in no shape to drive. She called Dora to
watch the children that night. She tries to explain to Grant how his fight
has complicated their relationship. She may get firede from her job because
she left school early to pull him out of the bar. Her husband had just
informed her that he would not grant her a divorce unless he could see
the children every weekend. Grant became upset, telling her he couldn’t
just sit there and let them talk about Jefferson that way. Vivian responded
that he was only thinking about himself, not Jefferson and not her. Love,
she says, involves consideration and self-restraint, not just what they
do in the bedroom. Enraged, Grant starts out of the house. Then, realizing
he was walking away from everything that was important to him, he turned
around and went back to Vivian.
This is a crucial turning point in Grant and Vivian’s relationship. Grant’s
selfish nature causes him to treat Vivian as an object. His concept of
love seems to end with making love. She is confused about the direction
they are heading and possibly reconsidering whether she wants to be involved
with someone who jeopardizes their relationship, her job, and her custody
of her children by getting into a bar fight. It is also a turning point
for Grant personally. When faced with Vivian’s accusations, his first
impulse is run away. This was his problem-solving technique. But in this
case, he realizes the futility of this approach and turns around to ask
forgiveness and take responsibility for making things better.
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Strate, Shane. "TheBestNotes on A Lesson Before Dying".
. 09 May 2017