A Lesson Before Dying

10 quiz questions:

1. Where is Grant living?- At his Tante’s house

2. Jefferson is in jail because ??- he was in a bar where a shooting take place and he was the alone survivor.

3. How does the judge call Jefferson?- a hog

4. Who wants Grant to talk to Jefferson, and why? – Miss Emma, because she wants Jefferson to die as a man.

5. How does Jefferson call his godmother?- He calls her Nannan.

6. What is the name and profession of Grant’s girlfriend?- Vivian is a teacher.

7. Where do Grant and Vivian meet each other?-  At the Rainbow club in Bayonne.

8. What does Grant buy for Jefferson?- a radio and a notebook with a pencil

9. Where does Jefferson work? – In the church of Reverend Ambrose.

Connect words to A LESSON BEFORE DYING.

  • dignity
  • In the novel Jefferson is called a hog. His dignity is wounded. He feels totally down, he doesn’t want to eat, doesn’t want to talk, he doesn’t want to do anything dignified people do. He is loss and wants to die as a hog.

    However Grants visits change Jefferson. Grant wants to be his friend and talk to him. The talk about the situation and that Jefferson can be a hero for the black society.Finally Jefferson wins his dignity back and died as a strong man.


    The visits

    Please explore Grant’s visit at the prison by focusing on both Grant’s and Jefferson’s behaviour and posture. Besides, you should pay attention to the contact they have with each other. Find suitable quotations for both characters.


  • Please note where to find the 10 visits: visit 1: chapter 9, 66ff.; visits 2 / 3: chapter 100, 77ff.; visit 4: chapter 11: 75ff.; visit 5: chapter 17, 112ff.; visit 6: chapter 18, 121ff.; visit7: chapter 22, 148ff; visit 8: chapter 23, 160ff.; visit 9: chapter 24, 165ff; visit 10: chapter 28, 192ff.
  • visit in between without Grant: chapter 23, 156ff.
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    The novel “a lesson before dying” is written by Ernest J. Gaines and deals with the blacks in the society of the 1940. The main character is a black teacher who is visiting Jefferson, a young black man, in prison who is sent to death. He should teach him pride and dignity before his death.

    Miss Emma, the grandma of Jefferson, is a friend of Grant’s  Tante Lou. She wants Grant to visit Jefferson, because the judgeman names him a hog and she doesn’t want Jefferson to die as a “hog”. Primarily Grant doesn’t want to teach Jefferson because he doesn’t know how he should deal with it.

    Advantageously Grant is a teacher and should fing ways to deal with it. But that isn’t the cause that changes  Grant mind  . He dreams about going away and be free. But his girlfriend wants to stay because of her job and her children.  Consequently he begins to visit Jefferson. 

    First he thinks his visits are absurd. Jefferson doesn’t want to talk with him. But after a while they get friends and talked about the situation. After a while they trust each other. 

    Grant learns that he has the chance to change something. If Jefferson is going to death and is behaving like a hog that would be the normal procedure. No one would talk about it and Jefferson will be forgotten soon. But if he’s sitting there, behaving like a real man, strong, big, masculine man, he will stay in minds.

    Pre-reading activity

    Once again focusing on the word LESSON (cf. previous task), please note down what comes to your mind.  Take things a little further by considering the effect the various lessons might have.

    • learning something you still don’t know
    • school, vocational education
    • concentration on something
    • strategy
    • to convey knowledge and skills
    • driving lesson

    Post-reading activity

    The results from your pre-reading activity should serve you well when analysing the following LESSON-related issues in the actual novel

    • the lessons Grant teaches at school

    Grant taught the children in writing and reading. He also tries to  get them across the respect of adults and the right behaviour. He wants them to be disciplined.

    • and the lesson he learns when confronted with the task Tante Lou and Miss Emma ask him to do

    First he thought that he couldn’t achieve anything. He doesn’t want to “work” with Jefferson but he wants to change something in his life. He wants to get out of the town. But because of his girlfriend he stays. So he begans to visit Jefferson and at the end he realises that he can change something. He learns that he can achieve something if he tries to.

    • the lesson Jefferson learns

    At the beginning of Grants visits Jefferson calls himself a hog. He doesn’t want to life anymore. But during the time with Grant he realizes that he has to fight for himself, that he is no hog and could be a man. He has to show that the blacks generally are no hogs.

    • the lesson Paul learns