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A Lesson Before Dying By Ernest Gaines. Biography of Ernest Gaines Gaines was born in 1933 on River Lake Plantation in Pointe Coupee Parish near the town.

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Presentation on theme: "A Lesson Before Dying By Ernest Gaines. Biography of Ernest Gaines Gaines was born in 1933 on River Lake Plantation in Pointe Coupee Parish near the town."— Presentation transcript:

1 A Lesson Before Dying By Ernest Gaines

2 Biography of Ernest Gaines Gaines was born in 1933 on River Lake Plantation in Pointe Coupee Parish near the town of New Roads, Louisiana. Gaines is the oldest of 12 children and lived in Louisiana for most of his childhood. He left Louisiana at age 15 to continue his schooling in San Francisco, California.

3 Ernest Gaines Gaines grew up during a period of segregation between white and black people. In 1958, after publishing a few short stories, he won a Wallace Stegner creative writing fellowship to Stanford University, which enabled him to devote himself to his writing.

4 Ernest Gaines Though Gaines moved to California at age 15, many of his novels deal with racial issues of the rural South. Gaines had a very strong connection to the South throughout his lifetime. Aside from being an author, he currently teaches a creative writing seminar at the University of Southwestern Louisiana.

5 A Lesson Before Dying The novel takes place in a rural Louisiana town during the 1940s. During this time, segregation was a very prevalent part of society. The novel deals with many racial issues of the time period.

6 Segregation in the 1940s

7 Segregation of the 1940s

8 Moral Issues Within the Novel Not only does the text deal with issues of race, but it also deals with the issue of justice. The novel confronts moral questions surrounding the death penalty, which has been a controversial topic in our society for many decades.

9 The Death Penalty Debate


11 Main Characters Jefferson- a young black man who grew up in the quarter in Louisiana. Since his boyhood, he has done manual labor and has no education He is sensitive and thoughtful, altho angry and resentful while in jail Condemned to death by electric chair for a crime he did not commit Miss Emma- Miss Emma is Jefferson’s godmother (nannan) and cares deeply about her godson. A widow in her seventies, she is short and heavy, an imposing presence.

12 Tante Lou-Tante (aunt) Lou is Grant’s aunt. She raised him, making sacrifices so that he could get a college degree. Strong, stubborn, and determined woman in her 70s She demands that Grant serve the community as a leader—the role for which she sent him to college. Vivian Baptiste- A tall, beautiful, light-skinned “creole” schoolteacher who is dating Grant while waiting for a divorce from her husband. She has two children From Free LaCove and came from a more privileged background. She is cultured, refined, and respected

13 Grant Wiggins- A college educated, black school teacher who teaches on a plantation in the south Wishes he could escape his destiny but feels obligated to be loyal to the town and his aunt Not religious- no faith in God, justice, or humanity Reverend Mose Ambrose- The pastor to the black community He is a short, older man with white hair Ambrose is not educated to preach, but he “heard the voice” and found his calling. He is dutiful and has developed a deep understanding of the needs of his congregation.

14 Minor Characters Matthew Antoine -Grant’s pessimist former schoolteacher. A mulatto man. He tells Grant all his efforts as a teacher will make no difference Henri Pichot -The white plantation owner. All the blacks in the quarter worked on his plantation. Before they retired, Miss Emma and Tante Lou both worked in his kitchen for decades. Sheriff Guidry Pichot’s brother-in-law is the man responsible for overseeing Jefferson’s execution.

15 Paul A Deputy Sheriff who tries to befriend Grant during his visits to see Jefferson. He is the only non-racist white person in the novel. Dr. Joseph The school superintendent who visits the school to inspect the students and facility. He reminds Grant of a slave buyer at an auction.

16 Preview of A Lesson Before Dying The novel is about the lives of two black men living in a small Louisiana town. Jefferson, is awaiting execution for a murder he didn't commit; the other, Grant Wiggins, is a teacher whose sense of duty won't let him leave the home he has come to hate. Both men learn a valuable lesson from spending time with one another. The characters are realistic and represent recurrent themes in American literature. A somber mood is maintained through self- pitying central characters, continually pulling down those around them.

17 MAJOR THEMES EXPLORED Racism Obligation Redemption Heroes Freedom as a State of Mind


19 Creole/Mulatto

20 Chapter One Summary Jefferson is on trial for a crime he did not commit. The crime involved the robbery and murder of a white store owner. Jefferson’s defense attorney calls him a hog. Jefferson is convicted and receives the death penalty.

21 Chapter Two Summary Miss Emma is distraught about Jefferson’s sentence and very bothered about the attorney calling Jefferson a hog. Miss Emma would like to have the right for someone to visit Jefferson and talk to him while he awaits his execution. Tante Lou insists that Grant help Jefferson and make him realize that he is a man and not a hog.

22 Assignment: 1/31 Read chapters 3-5 Choose ONE quote on your worksheet to complete quote analysis on Be prepared to discuss chapters/quotes

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