A Lesson Before Dying
full title · A Lesson Before Dying
author · Ernest J. Gaines
type of work · Novel
genre · Fiction; historical fiction; social commentary
language · American English
date of first publication · 1993
publisher · Vintage Books
narrator · Grant Wiggins
point of view · First person
tone · Grant’s narrative voice reflects his changing moods, shifting from brooding cynicism to awareness and confidence.
tense · Past
setting (time) · 1940s
setting (place) · Bayonne, Louisiana
protagonist · Grant Wiggins
major conflict · Grant and Jefferson struggle to help Jefferson die with dignity.
rising action · Grant’s regular visits to Jefferson’s jail cell; Jefferson’s reaction of anger and silence
climax · Grant gives a passionate speech to Jefferson, and both men cry.
falling action · Jefferson becomes thoughtful and brave and dies an admirable death.
themes · Recognizing injustice and facing responsibility; redemption in death; the inescapable past
motifs · Constructive lying; small displays of power; Christian imagery
symbols · The notebook; the chair; the church; food and drink
Readers' Notes allow users to add their own analysis and insights to our SparkNotes—and to discuss those ideas with one another. Have a novel take or think we left something out? Add a Readers' Note!