A Lesson before Dying
From the author of A Gathering of Old Men and The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman comes a deep and compassionate novel. A young man who returns to 1940s Cajun country to teach visits a black youth on death row for a crime he didn't commit. Together they come to understand the heroism of resisting.
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The prosecution compares Jefferson to an animal to evoke an emotional reaction from the jury. As seen in an earlier reference, to what animal is Jefferson compared?
A racketeer is someone who makes money by participating in illegal activities.
John Keats is a well-known British poet. Read more about him below. (This annotation contains a link)
Lord Byron is another notable British poet. (This annotation contains a link)
Sir Walter Scott is a notable Scottish writer. Consider why the defense attorney believes Jefferson would not know who these authors were. What is he trying to suggest to the jury? (This annotation contains a link)
Grant describes Miss Emma as staring into the yard, but "not seeing anything out there". He thinks that instead of focusing on what she sees outside, Miss Emma is occupied with thoughts of
From what they have said so far, we can assume that Miss Emma and Grant's aunt want Grant
The word "antebellum" refers to a time period before a war. It is often specifically used in reference to the time before the American Civil War.
According to this statement, we can infer that
By describing the setting sun and the drop in temperature, consider how the author uses this imagery to mirror what has just happened between Miss Emma and Mr. Henri.
According to this description of Bayonne, we learn that the town is
Grant is so anxious to leave town because
(This annotation contains a link)
Vivian's body language indicates that she feels ______ upon hearing Grant's news.
Baton Rouge is the capital city of Louisiana. Consider what the text says about the geography and time period of the story. What might this suggest about laws or policies of the era? (This annotation contains a link)
The author uses imagery and the physical description of the girl to indicate Grant's view of her
What is ironic about Grant's treatment of his students?
Considering what you have read so far, what can you infer Mr. Henri and Mr. Louis are betting on? What makes you think this?
The tone of the aunt's question is best described as
Grant's inner conflict is
Receiving wood for winter suggests that the church/school is heated by a wood burning stove.
A midwife is a person who provides medical care and assistance to women during their pregnancies.
Based on descriptions of other characters in this story, how might we expect the superintendent to behave? What other characters are portrayed in this way, and how would you describe their behavior?
The term "primer" refers to the grade level that we now know as kindergarten.
Grant's tone in this statement is best described as
Why does Grant feel shame instead of pride upon seeing his students behave in this orderly fashion?
Based on this paragraph, we can infer that
The term "mulatto" refers to a person of mixed race, as with someone whose parents are each a different race.
Adolf Hitler was leader of the Nazi Party in Germany during World War Two. His actions led to the genocide of millions of innocent Jews.
The Ku Klux Klan is an extremist organization that targets non-whites in acts of protest and violence. Consider what Poulaya's reasons are for seeking justification for Hitler's and the KKK's actions. What does this say about his inner conflict?
How does this sentiment expressed by Poulaya compare or contrast to the revelation Grant starts to experience earlier in this chapter? Why does Grant remember his relationship with this teacher so vividly? What can he learn from him now? Explain.
During the American Civil War, the Confederacy consisted of southern states and leaders who fought to maintain the institution of slavery. Consider the significance of a statue of a Confederate soldier being placed outside of the courthouse.
Earlier in the text, Grant describes a different character who looks but does not see what they are looking at. This character is
Clabber is a unique dairy product mostly produced in the south. Read more about it below. (This annotation contains a link)
This is the most Jefferson has spoken up to this point. Based on this section, we can infer
Jackie Robinson was a well-known and groundbreaking major league baseball player. Read more about his story below. (This annotation contains a link)
This paragraph suggests the developing theme of
Dubbed the fight of the century, Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling was a significant boxing match. Listen to a radio piece about this event below. (This annotation has embedded rich content)
Based on this paragraph, we can infer that
Why does Vivian have her students translating sentences between English and French?
The technique of pairing opposites together in order to highlight their differences is called "dichotomy" and often used in literature. Consider how Gaines uses dichotomy elsewhere in the novel and what differences he chooses to highlight.
Compare Grant to a character in another book you have read.
Based on context, "backsliders" most likely means
To listen to Mahalia Jackson sing this hymn, click below. Consider the tone of the song and what it might imply about the mood at this point in the story. (This annotation contains a video)
Based on this section, we can infer that _______ is the person whom arrives at Grant's house.
A chifforobe is a wardrobe-style dresser. (This annotation contains a link)
Abraham Lincoln was our 16th president and drafted the Emancipation Proclamation. (This annotation contains a link)
Booker T. Washington was an important leader in the African-American community. Consider what we can infer about Grant's values because of the photos he has on display in his home. (This annotation contains a link)
Frederick Douglass was an avid abolitionist. Learn more about him below. (This annotation contains a link)
Describe how Grant's disposition changes when he is around Vivian. Why does this shift occur? What makes you think that?
The derrick was a widely used method for loading sugar cane on to transportation vessels. (This annotation contains a link)
Based on this section, we can infer that
Xavier University of Louisiana is one of the state's historically black universities. Learn more about it below. (This annotation contains a link)
The attitude Tante Lou takes towards Vivian is best described as
"Caste" refers to different social classes. Consider why Tante Lou thinks it is necessary to make others feel as if they were in a lower caste.
The action of slapping his leg with a ruler indicates that Grant is nervous. What is he most likely nervous about?
Considering what you have read, why did Miss Emma have to hit Jefferson? What makes you think this?
This is an example of dialect. "Roast nyers" is a way of pronouncing "roasting ears", as in corn ears.
Describe why Grant dreams of the execution. What connection might he feel to Jefferson? What makes you think this?
Considering Jefferson's body language, why might his eyes be inflamed?
Henry Martin is alluding to John D. Rockefeller, a well-known businessman. (This annotation contains a link)
Referring to where the women think Jefferson and Grant should meet at the jail, the word "picniclike" carries a ________ connotation.
This description is an example of what literary device?
To which chair is Jefferson referring?
This verse was made into a spiritual. Listen to it below and consider what implications the lyrics have for Jefferson's situation. (This annotation contains a video)
This means that Paul comes from a good family.
What does Vivian think is changing? What makes you think this?
Pralines are a sweet food that can be made with many different ingredients. (This annotation contains a link)
Using context to guide you, "inclement" most likely means
An allegory is an extended metaphor, a comparison between two things made at length. Whom do you think "The Little Pine Tree" is an allegory for? Why do you think this?
Watch the following video about static and dynamic characters. Consider what you have read so far. Think about who is static and who is dynamic in the text. (This annotation contains a video)
What is ironic about the unfolding events, considering the season?
Lent is a season observed prior to Easter in the Christian church. Below you will find an interesting article about one man's attempt to bridge the season of Lent with a focus on those who are incarcerated. Consider how this might connect to what you have read so far in "A Lesson Before Dying". (This annotation contains a link)
The use of the word "cage" continues the motif of Jefferson being referred to as
"Galoshes" is another term for rain boots.
What do you think Miss Emma will say to Grant? What makes you think this?
To what is Vivian referring when she says "Will that circle ever be broken"?
For the first time in the novel, we see Jefferson shifting from
Philco produced some of the first radios. Consider what Grant hopes to accomplish by giving Jefferson something so fashionable. (This annotation contains a link)
Grant walks by various emblems representing the Confederacy. What might this symbolize?
Why does Reverend Ambrose refer to the radio as a "sin box"? What fault does he find with it?
Grant has undergone a significant change. Which of the following best describes this change?
The chief deputy's actions highlight public policy of the era, which included
A brogan is a heavy boot that comes up to the ankle. They are often worn in the military.
To which historical policy is Grant referring?
Considering what you have read, to whom are the bricklayers referring?
What do you predict Grant will do? What makes you think this?
This is an example of what literary device?
What is ironic about Grant asking this question?
Considering other themes discussed in the text, what action also involves kneeling? Why is it significant that Grant takes this position?
Notice that Grant is now positioning himself in ways similar to Jefferson. Earlier in this chapter he is stretched out on his bed, and here he is looking out the window. Consider what might be important about these two men completing similar actions. What does it say about the impact they have on one another?
The better world that Reverend Ambrose is referring to is most likely
Reverend Ambrose and Grant have different opinions about how Jefferson should present himself at his execution. Reverend Ambrose feels kneeling will show __________, while Grant believes standing will show ___________.
This notebook entry shows
Grant's behavior here is different than how he acted for Reverend Ambrose. Why might he change for Jefferson?
Here is another example of dialect. Read the sentence aloud and think about what word Jefferson is actually saying.
To what is Jefferson alluding when he says "Me to take the cross"?
What might Grant mean when he says "We all need you"?
This chapter is written entirely in dialect. It is also the only chapter that is written from Jefferson's point of view. Watch the video posted below and consider how the shift in point of view and the cultural lens in which Jefferson writes impacts what he writes in his diary. You might also consider reading this section aloud to help with your understanding of the dialect. (This annotation contains a video)
In your own words, summarize the event that Jefferson describes in this paragraph.
Vivian will have her students kneeling until they hear
Think about the events that will unfold on this day. What might be in the truck?
Considering what you have read, "gruesome" most likely means
According to this chapter, has Jefferson proven himself to be a man and not an animal? Provide evidence to support your claim.
What dichotomy does the author create in this scene?
A corrugated roof contains grooves and is not flat.
Which of the following narrative elements contributes most to the rising action of the story?