Analysis of Vivian from a Lesson Before Dying

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Every man needs a strong woman. In the novel, A Lesson Before Dying, Vivian, Grant’s girlfriend, is more than just a “strong woman.” She knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to express her feelings. Although the majority of the novel’s attention is directed to Grant and Jefferson, Vivian as well deserves attention because she is a complex and well—developed character. Yes, Grant and Jefferson have their issues that need attention, but everyone has their problems and needs someone to lean on at least once in their life. For example, Grant says, “Let’s go somewhere and spend the night. Baton Rouge, New Orleans—anywhere,” only thinking of himself. However, it’s not and what he wants; it’s what she needs, what Vivian needs. Grant’s relationship with Vivian appears to be rather one-sided. Grant expects her to be there for him, but he thinks of her only in terms of his wants and needs. Vivian is there to satisfy his need for sex and conversation. She is there to support him and to nurse his wounds. We never see him reciprocate. While Vivian is willing to accept her responsibilities as a mother, teacher, and lover, Grant is unwilling to assume the responsibilities that accompany his roles as nephew, teacher, and lover. Throughout the novel, Grant reiterates his love for Vivian by saying; “I love you,” but never showing actions based on his verbal affections. “Honey, I love you” Grant says.

“That’s no answer. I don’t know what you mean by love. That bed? The cane field? What is love? Tell me what love is.” Vivian says, finally releasing what had been building up. Grant apparently never showed or expressed his love before because at that point he had nothing to say. To Vivian, it seems that love is more than a simple, “I love you”; it’s more of actions. The way she feels is that Grant only loves her when it’s time for sex or when he’s in need. Love is that acknowledgement from a person. Love is simply more than words. Support is a means or device that keeps...
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