A Lesson Before Dying

by: Ernest J. Gaines

Chapters 6–8

Summary Chapters 6–8

Professor Antoine, for all his cynical condemnation of whites, plays a role in propagating racism. Since he has white blood, he feels superior to black people, and he stayed in the South because he enjoyed this feeling of superiority. Antoine says mulattoes hate blacks because mulattoes know whites have the most financial and social worth and want to associate themselves with whites. The more white blood in a person, the higher he stands on the rungs of the social ladder. In order to deny their blackness, Antoine says, mulattoes avoid working with blacks. Antoine’s is a self-hating ethos.

Grant’s inner conflict stems from his experiences in education, including his exposure to the cynical Antoine. Inspired by years of study, Grant wants to make great changes in his hometown. Grant’s behavior defies stereotype, but in order to live, he must follow certain rules that make his small moments of defiance futile. The losing battle between small rebellions and survival becomes clear in Grant’s conversation with Guidry. Grant takes pride in flouting Guidry’s racist expectations by using grammatical English and maintaining his poise, but then he feels he has been “too clever” and adopts a humble demeanor. Like the nameless black narrator in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, Grant, no matter how much he asserts himself, can control only the superficialities of his life. He can use grammatical English and get an education, but the wrath of society would descend on him if he did something truly to step out of line.