A Lesson Before Dying

A Lesson Before Dying


Ernest J. Gaines was born in 1933 on a Louisiana plantation as s son of a poor family. He is one of the most popular contemporary novelists in the United States. Some of his books are "Catherine Carmier", "Of Love and Dust", "Bloodline", "A Long Day in November", "In My Fathers House" or "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman".

Main Characters:

JEFFERSON: is innocently sentenced to death because of a murder and a robbery

GRANT Wiggins: black teacher who always wants to go away from where he lives

VIVIAN: his girlfriend, teacher too, 2 children (not with Grant)

MISS EMMA: Jefferson´s godmother who loves him very much

AUNT LOU: Grant´s aunt, she is the one who forces Grant to visit Jefferson


Jefferson, a black guy, is innocently sentenced to death on the electric chair because he is accused to have done a murder. In the courtroom his defender calls him a hog what hurts Jefferson deeply. Some time later Jefferson´s godmother Miss Emma and the aunt of Grant Wiggins, a teacher in the quarter, come to Grant and tell him the story of Jefferson. They want Grant to help them by going to Jefferson and teach him to be a man, so that he is able to die as a man and not as a hog. Therefore, Miss Emma and aunt Lou ask Henry Pichot, for whom they have worked a long time, to talk to the judge what he finally does and Grant receives the allowance to visit Jefferson. In the following weeks he visits Jefferson very often. The first times Miss Emma and aunt Lou go with Grant but Jefferson does not want to speak and when he says something it were things like "I´m a hog!" He even does not show any love to his godmother Emma any more what makes her very sick. Grant also wants to give up but his girlfriend Vivian tells him to go on.

The time passes and Christmas arrives. That is the time when the execution day is set on April 8th . Jefferson is going to die at Easter, when Jesus died long time ago.

After Grant gets that news he visits Jefferson and brings him a radio. Jefferson is very happy and some time later he also receives a notebook from Grant. Jefferson even eats the food from his nannan who is also happy then.

When the execution day has come the electric chair is brought to the courthouse and all the people in town were frightened because of the terrible sound of the generator. In the quarter nobody works that day because Jefferson should get the respect of all of them.

The execution takes place between twelve and three o´clock. Grant is not at the courthouse because he thinks he is not able to stand it. So he is teaching in the church and tells his pupils to get on their knees at twelve o´clock till he allows to get up again.

Grant walks out and watches a butterfly which is flying away around twelve-fifteen. -at that moment Grant knows that Jefferson is already dead and a few minutes later Paul, a deputy, comes and tells Grant about the execution. He also gives him Jefferson´s notebook because he wants Grant to have it. He adds that Jefferson was the strongest man of all in the courthouse because he walked straight to the electric chair. Thereupon Grant goes back to his pupils, turns around and crys.

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