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A LESSON BEFORE DYING: LITERATURE SUMMARY / BOOK REPORT
This chapter, following as it does Grantís confrontation with Vivian, is a step on Grantís path towards self-realization. Like Vivian, Reverend Ambrose wonders aloud if Grant ever thinks of anyone but himself. Despite this, Grant displays a degree of self-control during the conversation, which did not possess down at the Rainbow Room. When Rev. Ambrose grabs his shoulders, he manages to refrain from knocking the Reverendís hands down.
Throughout the novel, Grant is slightly contemptuous of Rev. Ambrose
and his spiritual outlook, but in their discussion the preacher proves
himself to be an astute observer of the human condition. He possesses
more of the answers to lifeís questions than Grantís old schoolteacher,
Mathew Antoine. He speaks to Grant about self-awareness, the power of
sacrifice, and the strength of humility. Most importantly, he tries to
convince Grant that education should be a tool used to help others. It
should bring Grant closer to the people in the quarter instead of isolating
him from them. This is one of the reasons Grant is not yet truly educated.
When Grant next returned to Jeffersonís cell he could see that the lead on the pencil was worn down considerably, and the eraser had been used a lot. Grant flipped through the notebook and read that Jefferson had been dreaming about the long walk to the execution chamber. Grant offered to bring him a pencil sharpener next time, but Jefferson was more interested in whether Easter was the day Jesus died, or when he rose from the tomb. Grant encouraged him to follow Rev. Ambroseís advice and pray for his Nannanís sake. Jefferson asked if he prayed, and Grant had to admit that he didnít. But he told Jefferson it was good to believe in heaven, if only because it would please Miss Emma. She had done so many things for Jefferson, and this would be a chance to give something back.
Jefferson expressed admiration for Jesus, who went to the cross without
saying Ďa mumbliní word.í (Page 223) He said thatís how he wanted to go
to the chair - without a word. He realized that from here on out he had
to do it all himself, carry his own cross like Jesus. No one cared for
him during his life; now that he was going to die he was supposed to somehow
be better than anyone else. Why was that? Grant said he didnít know. Jefferson
promised to do his best and Grant reminded him that every last person
in the quarter needed him to do his best. Finally, Jefferson asked what
it would be like, if it would be painful. Grant replied that he probably
wouldnít feel anything.
When Grant remarks, ďMy eyes were closed before this moment, Jefferson.
My eyes have been closed all my lifeĒ he is in the final stage of his
conversion process. Impressed with Jeffersonís courage, Grant sees him
as a Savior-figure. If he manages to bear his cross with dignity, Jefferson
can provide a form of salvation to all the people of the quarter. He can
give them something theyíve never had, something they could not achieve
on their own - pride in their race and in themselves.
Jeffersonís diary. He has never written a letter in his life before,
but takes time to write down his observations and feelings in the fee
weeks before his execution. He writes that the Lord must only work for
white folks, since he didnít do anything to deserve his fate. When he
goes to sleep, he dreams about walking towards a door. He wants to tell
Grant that he likes him, but he doesnít know how. He notices peopleís
reactions to him. Henri Pichot visited his cell and sharpened his pencil,
then gave Jefferson the knife he used to sharpen the pencil. Bok, a mentally
retarded boy, gave Jefferson on of his special marbles. Paul seems distant
now that the execution date has been announced. The children from the
quarter came to visit him, and when he received a hug from his cousin
Estel he couldnít hold back the tears. After meeting Vivian, he felt bad
about what he had said the day he was trying to insult Grant. Towards
the end, the Sheriff allowed him to shower by himself, with a new bar
of soap and a new towel. He also left the light on at night so that Jefferson
could keep writing. He didnít sleep at all the night before his execution.
At the end, he wrote that he would ask Paul to take the diary to Grant.
The most important idea to emerge from Jeffersonís diary is his surprise
that people who showed no concern for him during his life are trying to
make him comfortable right before his death. Mr. Pichot gives him the
pearl-handled pocketknife, the Sheriff allows him to have the light on,
and Grant comes to visit him once a week. None of these people ever cared
for him before he was sentenced to death. Paul seems to be the opposite.
He becomes more and more distant as the date approaches.
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Strate, Shane. "TheBestNotes on A Lesson Before Dying".
. 09 May 2017