"A Lesson Before Dying" by Ernest J. Gaines - speech

Essay by dudeman567 July 2006

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First and foremost, I will familiarize you with the characters in the novel:

- Jefferson, a twenty-one-year-old uneducated black field worker condemned to die after being innocently involved in an armed robbery and shooting.

- Alcee Grope, the white storekeeper killed during the attempted robbery.

- Brother and Bear, two young black men killed while attempting to rob Alcee Grope's store

- Miss Emma, Jefferson's godmother, she is determined that Jefferson will die with dignity

- Grant Wiggins, the narrator. A cynical disillusioned teacher called upon to instill a sense of

pride and self-worth in Jefferson before his execution

- Tante Lou, Grant's aunt and Miss Emma's best friend

- Vivian Baptiste, Grant Wiggin's girlfriend

- Henri Pichot, the owner of the plantation that once employed Miss Emma and Tante Lou as

cook and housekeeper

- Sam Guidry, sheriff of Bayonne County; Henri Pichot's brother-in-law, white authoritarian

In late 1940's Grant Wiggins has been teaching on a plantation outside Bayonne, Louisiana, for several years when a slow-witted man named Jefferson is convicted of murder and sentenced to death.

Jefferson claims he is innocent of the crime. He says he just asked a ride from his two friends, Brother and Bear, who happened to be on their way to the liquor store. Upon arriving there, the two men started arguing with the Alcee Grope, the white storekeeper and the shoot out ensued. The storeowner and the two men died, and Jefferson shocked and nervous didn't know what to do. He is thirsty so he took a drink from the nearest bottle and since he has no money decided to take some from the cash register. Bottle on one hand and money on the other, this is how he was found by the white people who are just entering the...