A Lesson Before Dying

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A Lesson Before Dying Chapter 22 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Grant has arrived at the jailhouse. Paul searches him, though they both know there is no reason for it. As Paul walks Grant to the cell, he tells Grant that he is the first person to visit Jefferson since the date of the execution has been set.
Paul makes conversation with Grant when he’s not required to do so. The conversation may not be very cheery, but it shows that he cares about Jefferson, and about Grant.
Themes
Racism Theme Icon
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
In the cell, Grant greets Jefferson and offers him food, but Jefferson shakes his head and refuses to eat. Jefferson asks Grant what day it is; Grant answers that it’s a Friday. Jefferson begins to talk about the day he’ll be executed, and wonders aloud what kind of weather there will be. Grant asks him if he wants different food, or books or clothes for the next visit, and Jefferson tells Grant that he wants to eat a whole gallon of ice cream before he’s executed. Grant thinks that he seems unusually calm.
Surprisingly, Jefferson is calmer knowing exactly when he’s going to die than he was when he knew that he was going to be killed at some point in the near future. Psychologically, this makes sense: now that the execution has a date, Jefferson can go through his days without being afraid that he’ll be killed tomorrow.
Themes
Heroism and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Grant proposes bringing Jefferson a small radio, and Jefferson agrees, though he doesn’t show any joy at the thought of the music. Afterwards, Jefferson stares into space, reluctant to say anything more to Grant. Rather than leave the cell early, giving the sheriff the idea that the visit hasn’t gone well, Grant stands in the cell and waits for the hour to elapse. When Paul comes to get him, he tells him that the visit was better than ever. Paul looks skeptical, but Grant thinks that Paul wants to believe what Grant told him. Paul promises Grant that he’ll deliver the radio to Jefferson himself.
Even if Jefferson doesn’t show enthusiasm at the mention of a radio, he brings up ice cream independently, showing that he still has material, and thus, human desires. When he speaks to Paul again, Grant honestly thinks that he’s seen evidence that Jefferson is improving. Paul shows that he’s capable of great hope and optimism, believing that Jefferson is improving because he wants to believe that it’s so.
Themes
Heroism and Sacrifice Theme Icon
After leaving the jailhouse, Grant doesn’t go home. He resolves to borrow money from Vivian in order to buy Jefferson a radio. With this in mind, he goes to the Rainbow Club to wait for Vivian to finish her day of teaching. As he waits, he tells Claiborne about Jefferson and his plan to buy him a radio. Claiborne doesn’t charge Grant for the beer, and even gives him extra money to buy the radio. Grant thanks him and tells him that he’ll pay him back soon. Grant then moves into the café of the Rainbow Club, where he tells Thelma about his plan to buy the radio. As he explains all this, he watches as Thelma’s facial expressions change: first she’s concerned, then angry that Claiborne gave Grant money, then concerned again when she looks around the café and sees that she has three other customers, meaning that she can spare some money. Thelma offers Grant ten dollars, and though he turns it down at first, he eventually accepts without saying thank you (he thinks that Thelma doesn’t want to be thanked).
Grant shows that he’s committed to Jefferson’s improvement by spending his own money on the radio, albeit with help from Claiborne. We’ve already seen how stingy Grant can be, based on his anger when his students waste chalk. Now, he’s voluntarily spending his own money to make Jefferson happy. Thelma’s behavior in the Rainbow Room is selfish, if only for a fleeting moment. In a way, this fleeting moment highlights Grant’s own generosity: before, he was the selfish one and the Claiborne’s were generous. Now, Thelma is selfish, and Grant is the generous one. And yet, both of the Claiborne’s also ultimately contribute to buying the radio, again showing how Jefferson has become important to all of the black community. Nobody can do anything about avoiding Jefferson’s death. The institutional racism is too powerful for that. But all of the black community is invested in Jefferson showing through his behavior that the underpinnings of that racism are wrong.
Themes
Racism Theme Icon
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
Heroism and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
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With his money, Grant drives to a nearby store, where he finds a radio that gets three channels. He tests the radio by listening to a Baton Rouge station, and decides that it’s acceptable. A saleswoman offers him a slightly used radio for 19 dollars, but Grant insists on the full-priced radio, in the original box, for 20. The woman, slightly irritated, finds a new radio, and he buys it.
Grant’s desire to give Jefferson pleasure is so great that he accepts no imitations: only a brand-new radio is good enough.
Themes
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
Grant drives back to the jailhouse, where he finds Paul and the sheriff. He tells the sheriff that he has a radio to give to Jefferson; the sheriff says that he’ll allow the radio, but that in the future Grant has to check before he brings gifts to the prisoners. Grant intentionally speaks in a stereotypical black dialect, and doesn’t talk back to the sheriff. As he walks out of the jailhouse, he makes eye contact with Paul, who is smiling. Grant drives back to the Rainbow Club, where he hopes Vivian will come.
It’s surprising that Grant’s efforts to get Jefferson a radio work out as well as they do: it would be so easy for Guidry to break Grant’s radio or make up a rule saying that prisoners can’t have machines. Instead, he allows Paul to give Jefferson the machine. It may be that Edna and Paul have influenced the sheriff to behave more civilly to blacks. In part, though, Grant convinces the sheriff to give Jefferson the radio by doing what he was previously unwilling to do: talk in a black dialect. We see that Grant has begun to care about Jefferson so deeply that he’s willing to humiliate himself to bring his student some simple pleasure. Put another way: Grant his sacrificing his ideals for his community.
Themes
Racism Theme Icon
Heroism and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Roots, Connections, and Morality Theme Icon