Title: A lesson before dying Essay, New York, Vintage Contemporaries, 1993.
Scene: A small Cajun community outside of Bayonne Louisiana one
hundred years after Emancipation. It is the story of a teacher
and a prisoner who have to work together and find what it is to be a man.
Theme: Recognizing Injustice and Facing Responsibility
Key Persons: Jefferson, a poor man who was convicted of a crime, and
sentenced to death. He rediscovers his self-worth and prepares to face his execution with dignity and purpose
Grant Wiggins, a teacher who was forced to go and help Jefferson before his
Vivian, Grant’s girlfriend and also a teacher, she is trying
to divorce her husband. Miss Emma, Jefferson’s grandmother, who
raised him and wants Grant to teach him to walk like a man before he is put
to death. Tante Lou, Grant’s aunt who raised him and who he lives with, Miss Emma’s best friend. Reverend Ambrose, the communitys self-proclaimed preacher, wants to help
Jefferson find God before he is put to death.
1. Jefferson is convicted of murder and sentenced to death by
Miss Emma is distraught, and has Grant drive her and
2. Grant finds out that he has to go and visit Jefferson and try to make
3. Grant goes to visit Jefferson but he will not even recognize his
4. Grant tells Vivian that he does not want to go back. That he just
wants them to run away from here and go anywhere that she wants. She
Jefferson is impolite to Miss Emma, Tante Lou and Reverend Ambrose.
6. Grant finally reaches Jefferson by offering to buy him a radio so
that he can listen to music whenever he wants. Reverend Ambrose is
envious about Grant reaching Jefferson because Grant doesn’t believe in
Heaven and the Reverend knows that Jefferson needs to find God as well as
7. Grant convinces Jefferson to write down his feelings and questions so
that Grant can answer or just talk to him.
Jefferson writes in his journal that he loves his grandmother that he
knows the type of people who work in the jail, saying that he knows they
are good people. He apologizes to Grant for talking about Vivian badly.
Jefferson talks about his dream of walking, but he doesn’t know to where. He says that he does not sleep because he is to frightened to.
9. It is the day of execution and another inmate is shaving Jefferson.
He then gives the notebook of his thoughts to Paul so that he can pass it off to grant
10. Grant is waiting for the news that it is over. He does not want to watch Jefferson die. Paul tells Grant that Jefferson was the strongest man in the
room. Grant, crying, goes back into the classroom to tell his students that it is finally over.
Key Symbols: The Radio: It is a symbol of the outside world and makes him feel human.
Opinion: Although recommended by a friend, I did not enjoy this book as much as I wanted to. It was long and almost a chore to read.