A Lesson Before Dying

by: Ernest J. Gaines

Vivian Quotes

Quotes Vivian Quotes
Vivian Baptiste was a beautiful woman, and she knew it; but she didn’t flaunt it, it was just there.

Grant describes Vivian’s appearance in detail. He is in love with her, and he depends on her for stability, affection, and understanding. After his aunt and Miss Emma insist that he visit Jefferson in prison, he goes to Bayonne and meets Vivian at a bar. He asks her to leave with him, but she reminds him that they have commitments, including her two children. When he confides what is bothering him, she replies that he must help Jefferson whether he wants to or not.

She looked up at me, and she could read my face, and she knew that I had been at the jail. “Still working?” I asked her. “Nothing I can’t do later.”

Vivian exists as Grant’s rock. He goes to her when he’s upset and needs comfort, and this exchange reveals how well she knows him and how lovingly she responds to him. She knows from the look on his face that he has just done what he has avoided doing and that he needs to talk to her to clear his mind. Vivian is willing to put aside her work to tend to his needs in this moment. Although she declines his suggestion to leave town together, she writes I love you forever as a message to Grant on her chalkboard in French.

“I hope you love me half as much as I love you.” I left her for awhile, and when I came back I saw that she had moved farther down between the rows, where the cane would hide us better.

Vivian has just surprised Grant by showing up at his aunt’s house on a Sunday morning. She had never been there before. They take a walk through the sugarcane fields, and she asks him if he wants to make love with her there. Here, Grant agrees, and they share a tender encounter before returning to the house to meet his aunt and her friends.

There was a silence awhile, then I heard my aunt saying, “You’re a lady of quality. Quality ain’t cheap.” “Thank you, ma’am.” “Don’t give up God,” my aunt said. “No matter what, don’t ever do that.”

After a long awkward visit in the kitchen, Grant’s aunt finally expresses her approval of Vivian. They have shared coffee and cake and even allowed Grant and Vivian to serve the older women. As they talk, Vivian reveals that she is Catholic, which apparently pleases Grant’s aunt. While he may not admit the truth, Grant values and appreciates his aunt’s approval of Vivian.

And that was one of the reasons I had come back here to see her, to tell her that I had finally reached him and that I would be more relaxed now, and that it was going to be all right between her and me from now on.

The tension Grant felt about Jefferson has had a huge impact on Grant’s psychological well-being, which has taken a toll on his sexual relationship with Vivian. After his breakthrough with Jefferson, Grant can’t wait to tell Vivian that things will now get better. Unfortunately, before Grant sees her, he gets into a brawl with two men at a bar. During the fight, he is knocked out cold and severely injured.

She had been holding it in a long time, and now she was going to let it out. I saw it coming as soon as she spoke. “What is me?” she said. “Tell me, what is me?”

Vivian challenges Grant in a moment of emotional upheaval. Despite Vivian being wholly supportive of Grant through this entire ordeal and encouraging his friendship with Jefferson, Grant’s bar fight and their ensuing conversation push her over an emotional edge. When Grant tells her that her frustration isn’t the real her talking, her anger spills over. Like the other women in the novel, Vivian feels exploited and misunderstood by the men around her, even the man she loves.