A Lesson Before Dying: Complete Summary

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1.Title: A Lesson Before Dying
2.Author: Ernest J. Gaines
3.Date of publication: 1993
4.Genre: Historical Fiction
5.Biographical information about author: He was born January 15, 1933 in Louisiana. He lived on the River Lake Plantation. He started working in the fields when he was nine. He was raised by his aunt, Augusteen Jefferson. His parents moved to California during WWII and he joined them when he was 15. He served in the US Army and graduated from San Francisco State College in 1957. He now lives in San Francisco, California and is an English professor. 6.Plot Summary: Jefferson went with the “wrong crowd” and ended up at the wrong place at the wrong time. This “bad” choice resulted in him being convicted of murdering Mr. Grope, the white storekeeper. After his godmother, Miss Emma heard the defense attorney say he wasn’t as smart as a hog; Miss Emma asked Grant Wiggins to teach Jefferson how to be a man before his execution. Grant hates the idea, but Aunt Tante Lou won’t take no for an answer and Vivian, his girlfriend, convinces him it’s the right thing to do. During his jail visits with Jefferson things didn’t go well. Jefferson refused to talk, eat and at times acted like a hog. As time went on Jefferson and Grant became friends and Grant brought him a radio and gave him a notebook to write down his thoughts. During all this time Reverend Ambrose was more concerned with making sure Jefferson was saved and would go to heaven. Grant didn’t believe in heaven so he couldn’t help in that area. He was more interested in making Jefferson realize he had an opportunity to be a hero. 7.Memorable quote: “But let us say he was not. Let us for a moment say he was not. What justice would there be to take this life? Justice, gentlemen? Why, I would just as soon put a hog in the electric chair as this.” – This quote set the tone for the rest of the book. 8.Setting: Bayonne, Louisiana in the 1940’s

9.Symbols: The ruler symbolizes authority. Grants uses...
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