A Lesson Before Dying Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of A Lesson Before Dying

This is the story of two young black men who are very different but both face the same issues of racial oppression in the era preceeding The Great Depression. Grant Wiggins is a young teacher who is in love with a married woman. He believes that the only way to escape racism is to leave the town of Lousiana where he grew up but has very bitter memories of. Grant is very insightful and intelligent and this is why he is asked by his aunt Tante Lou and her friend Miss Emma to spend time with Miss Emma's godson Jefferson.
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Jefferson is also a young black man who has struggled with predujice, but unlike Grant this struggle will ulitmatly cost him his life. Jefferson was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was sentenced to death for the murder of a liquor store owner and two other men. At Jefferson's trial his lawyer defends him by saying that he was no smarter than a hog and a hog couldn't plot a crime. Jefferson is sentenced to death but he takes the hog comment to heart. His godmother Miss Emma does too and this is why she summons Grant to speak with her godson before his death so he can "die a man."

Grant who is a very selfish character is nervous to speak with Jefferson because he doesn't want to get close to someone who is going to die. Grant's aunt forces him to visit Jefferson and by the third visit Grant is making progress with him.

Grant has evolved as a character and grown very clost to Jefferson over the months awaiting his execution. When the day of the execution arrives Grant makes his class at school kneel until he receieves word from the courthouse that the execution is complete. Finally the final word is in that Jefferson is dead.
The review of this Book prepared by Kim Fedder

Grant Wiggins, the first member of his family to attend university, has returned to his hometown of Bayonne, Louisiana to teach in the plantation school. When a former student, a simple-minded young man named Jefferson, is sentenced to die after getting mixed up with some bad company that killed a white shopkeeper but were killed themselves in the gun battle, the doomed boy's mother asks Wiggins to visit the kid in jail and make him realize he's not just an animal but a man, before he dies. Wiggins does not want this task, but his aunt Lou, with whom he lives, insists. The teacher has to negotiate the gauntlet between suspicious, unsympathetic white jailers and an unresponsive, ungrateful "pupil." This beautiful, heartfelt novel skillfully brings to life a time and a place, and depicts the subtleties and hypocrisies of race relations, the limits and consolations of faith, and the emotional process of putting a man to death.
The review of this Book prepared by David Loftus

Chapter Analysis of A Lesson Before Dying

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Plot & Themes

Tone of book?    -   thoughtful Time/era of story    -   1930's-1950's Political/social activism    -   Yes Plotlet:    -   death penalty Ethnic/Regional/Religion    -   Black people in America/Europe    -   American South Crime & Police story    -   Yes Story of    -   criminal becomes sensitive Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Ethnic/regional/gender life    -   Yes

Main Character

Gender    -   Male Profession/status:    -   thief/con artist    -   teacher Age:    -   20's-30's Ethnicity/Nationality    -   Black (American)


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   6 () United States    -   Yes The US:    -   Deep South Small town?    -   Yes Small town people:    -   nice, like Andy/Opie/Aunt Bee    -   very gullible, like Gomer Pyle    -   hostile, like Gomer Pyle on steroids Misc setting    -   prison

Writing Style

Sex in book?    -   Yes What kind of sex:    -   vague references only    -   descript of kissing Amount of dialog    -   roughly even amounts of descript and dialog

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Ernest J. Gaines Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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