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.
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