A Lesson Before Dying

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A Lesson Before Dying Chapter 13 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
It is Determination Sunday, shortly after the events of the previous few chapters. Determination Sunday is the third Sunday of every month, when the churchgoers sing their favorite hymns. Grant is in his home, correcting student papers, and hears a local woman, Miss Eloise Bouie calling for his aunt. Tante Lou goes to church every Sunday, but Grant hasn’t gone to church since he returned from college. Lou usually doesn’t bring this up, though she’s an enthusiastic lover of Determination Sundays.
We learn something new about Grant: he doesn’t go to church In a sense, this was already obvious: he’s shown no signs of believing in Heaven, he shows no signs of respect for Reverend Ambrose, and he hasn’t shown any signs that he hopes that God will help Jefferson. We also see the rift between Grant and Tante Lou that’s created by Grant’s lack of faith: Lou loves going to church, and it is suggested she is both devout and loves the community of everyone singing together. While Grant refuses to go, he at least recognizes that he’s hurting Lou, suggesting that he loves her and feels guilty about hurting her.
Themes
Education Theme Icon
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
As Lou proceeds to church and Grant grades papers, he thinks back to Friday, when he visited Jefferson alone for the first time. Grant returned from Bayonne late in the evening, and found Reverend Ambrose, Lou, and Miss Emma waiting in Emma’s home. Tante Lou is furious with Grant for not returning from his visit sooner, and insists that he explain what he and Jefferson talked about. Grant, not wanting to go into much detail, says that he told Jefferson that Emma had a bad cold; he adds, untruthfully, that Jefferson is behaving well and wearing the clothing Emma sent him. Emma is unsure whether to believe Grant or not.
Grant lies to Emma. While this doesn’t accomplish much in the long term (as we’ll see shortly), it brings Emma less pain and suffering than the truth (that Jefferson thinks he’s a hog) would have. However, Grant lies not because he wants to help Miss Emma but because he doesn’t want to go home empty-handed; he doesn’t want a confrontation with Lou and Emma. Grant may be inching his way toward moral behavior, but he’s still a long way off.
Themes
Education Theme Icon
Reverend Ambrose asks Grant what he thinks about Jefferson, deep in his heart. Grant is unsure how to answer the question. Ambrose says that he’s concerned that Jefferson, like Grant himself, hasn’t kept his faith. Grant only replies that he didn’t “get around” to talking about God. Ambrose plans to visit Jefferson on Monday, along with Emma and Lou; Grant recommends that they bring him food and clothing. When Ambrose asks about a Bible, he replies, “That would be nice, too.”
Grant shows more open hostility to organized religion, casually saying that he didn’t get around to discussing the church. Based on what we’ve already seen, Grant seems to dislike religion because it encourages people to accept their fate in life. Grant despises this kind of placid acceptance, because it’s the opposite of the change he tries to enact in his students as a school teacher.
Themes
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
On Sunday, as Grant grades papers, he hears Emma, Ambrose, and Lou singing in the church. He thinks about losing his faith during his time in college; it pained him to see his aunt saddened when he didn’t go to church. At that point in his life, Grant thought about leaving Louisiana to go to California, where his mother and father lived, but eventually he decided to stay in Louisiana, which made Tante Lou happy. Ever since choosing to stay, he has been in an “in between” state, refusing to leave his old community but also aware that the community is no longer his own.
Grant doesn’t describe exactly why he lost his faith, other than that he grew older. This suggests that he doesn’t understand exactly why he has stopped going to church. Even here, he shows that he has a sense of right and wrong, and knows that it’s wrong to cause Tante Lou pain. Grant also identifies himself as being in an “in-between” state. As with Jefferson, the first step to solving a problem is admitting that you have one: here, Grant identifies his problem.
Themes
Education Theme Icon
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
Roots, Connections, and Morality Theme Icon
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As Grant listens to singing from the church, Vivian arrives at his house, dressed beautifully in blue and maroon. Grant invites her in.
Vivian presents herself to Grant as a welcome alternative to introspection and cynicism.
Themes
Heroism and Sacrifice Theme Icon