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- A Lesson Before Dying is narrated mostly by the teacher Grant Wiggins from the first-person point of view. What important attributes does he reveal about himself in the opening chapters? What kinds of things does he conceal?
- Why hasn't Grant left Louisiana, though he says he wants nothing more than to get away? What is he trying to escape?
- Grant was educated in the 1930s, and 1942 marks his first year as a teacher. What do we know about Grant's school days, and how does this inform his own teaching methods?
- Miss Emma and Grant's Tante Lou pressure Grant to visit Jefferson in prison. Why does Grant follow their advice against his own wishes?
- Why does Grant refuse to sit down and eat in Henri Pichot's kitchen?
- Grant's girlfriend is a light-skinned Catholic mother of two who is not yet divorced. How do these differences create tension in their relationship?
- How does the radio mark a turn in Grant's relationship with Jefferson?
- Grant describes the cycle of life for black men in the South to Vivian. What is his answer to the question: "Can the cycle ever be broken?" Is the answer relevant today?
- Do you agree, as Grant says, that he can never be a hero but that Jefferson can be?
- What effect does Chapter 29--the only time in the narrative when we directly hear Jefferson's voice--have on the reader? Why might Gaines have made the choice to use Jefferson's diary to tell this part of the novel?
- How does the white deputy, Paul, contrast with other white men and women in the novel? Why is it important that Paul attends Jefferson's execution?
- Would you have been able to stand with Jefferson? Why wasn't Grant at the execution?