A Lesson Before Dying

by: Ernest J. Gaines

Miss Emma Quotes

Quotes Miss Emma Quotes
I want somebody do something for me one time fore I close my eyes. Somebody got to do something for me one time ’fore I close my eyes, Mr. Henri. Please sir.

Miss Emma begs Henri Pichot to help her convince his brother-in-law, the sheriff, to let Grant visit Jefferson while he waits on death row. Determined, she makes clear that she’ll be back tomorrow on her knees if he doesn’t agree to grant her request. She has worked many years for his family, and she believes she deserves this favor. Readers may note that while Pinchot doesn’t exactly agree, he listens and does not say no.

I had the feeling that Miss Emma was not nearly as sick as she was pretending to be. For one thing, I had seen her that morning picking up chips in the yard, and she didn't look sick at all.

Grant begins to understand that Miss Emma and his aunt have been plotting all along that he visit Jefferson alone. Here he notes that he believes Miss Emma is faking her illness, even coughing, so that he will go to the jail without her. In this scene, he also recalls that weeks before she said that her heart could not take the visits. He now sees that the two women have planned this strategy from the start.

“I’ll tell her how much you enjoyed the food,” I said. “That would make her happy.”

From Grant’s first visit alone with Jefferson, readers may note that Grant’s main objective is to please Miss Emma and his aunt even if that means he will need to lie to them about what happens in the jail cell. During this first visit, Jefferson has literally acted like the hog he has been accused of being, but Grant will hide this behavior from Miss Emma to protect her from the truth. What happens between the two men happens in confidence, not matter how ugly the behavior is.