A Lesson Before Dying

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A Lesson Before Dying Chapter 26 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
After Vivian leads Grant out of the Rainbow Club, she asks him what happened. Grant explains that Claiborne must have been the one to knock him out, since he didn’t want fighting in his bar. He explains to Vivian that the mulattoes were talking about Jefferson. When Vivian asks why Grant didn’t just walk away from them, Grant says that Jefferson can’t just walk away. Vivian insists that Grant should have used words instead of fighting.
Grant thinks of himself as Jefferson’s teacher, spokesman, representative, and protector. In a way, he feels connected to Jefferson; he feels as if he’s going through the same pains and challenges that Jefferson faces, such as confinement and persecution. It’s not clear who’s right, Vivian or Grant: Vivian is more sensible, pointing out that the fighting solved nothing, but she doesn’t feel the same intimate bond with Jefferson that Grant has developed.
Themes
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
Because Grant is injured, Vivian insists that he stay with her that night. Grant objects, because Vivian’s husband could find out about their affair, and as a result he could take his and Vivian’s children. Nonetheless, Vivian insists that Grant must come home with her—besides, she argues, everyone in town will already know about the two of them, since Vivian escorted Grant out of the bar.
Grant’s interaction with Vivian is meant to contrast with their first interaction in the novel: originally, Vivian was acting on behalf of their children, while Grant “selfishly” wanted Vivian to come see him. Now, Grant is thinking about the future, and about Vivian’s children; he’s less selfish than he was only months before.
Themes
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
Vivian takes Grant to her home, gives him a towel for his head, and fixes him a meal of red beans and pork chops. Vivian is somewhat angry with Grant for his violent behavior; when Grant asks, half-jokingly, if she still loves him, she doesn’t answer. As they sit down to eat, Grant begins to tell Vivian about his success with Jefferson at the jailhouse earlier that day. Before he can get far in his story, Vivian bows her head to say grace over her portion of the meal, and then tells Grant that her husband, who’s currently in Texas, won’t agree to a divorce unless she agrees to let him see their children every weekend. Upon hearing this news, Grant is angry, and calls Vivian’s husband a sonofabitch. He tells Vivian that he needs her as Jefferson gets closer to his execution.
Gaines fills his novel with loving descriptions of cooking; indeed, most of the women in the novel are shown to be excellent cooks, whether it’s Emma, Lou, or Vivian. Cooking symbolizes the intimate bond between two people—to make someone a meal is a gesture of love, and thus to eat and enjoy the meal is to return that love. Grant’s anger is difficult to interpret: he’s angry in part because he wants Vivian to get her divorce over with as soon as possible, and in part because he wants Vivian to focus on helping him while he thinks about Jefferson. He’s also annoyed that Vivian says grace, especially on the heels of his argument with Ambrose.
Themes
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
Roots, Connections, and Morality Theme Icon
Angry and frustrated that Vivian’s divorce will be difficult and lengthy, Grant prepares to leave Vivian’s house, not wanting to leave any further evidence of their affair. Vivian tells Grant that he might as well stay. Grant tells Vivian that he loves her, but when Vivian asks him what he means by love, he’s unable to answer. He gets up to leave, slamming his towel on his plate of food. He opens the door and stares out into the darkness, thinking that he has nothing worthwhile to go home to. After a few minutes of standing, he decides to stay at Vivian’s house, and buries his head in her lap.
Grant’s behavior in this moment reflects how far he’s come since he began teaching Jefferson. At the beginning of the novel, he fantasized about leaving: leaving his family, leaving his school children, leaving the plantation community. Here, he recognizes the truth: he can’t leave because there is nothing anywhere else for him. This is a depressing conclusion, but also an empowering one: Grant realizes the value of what he has. His embrace of Vivian, then, is both joyous and melancholy: he’s trapped in Louisiana, but he has a woman he loves. Perhaps he hasn’t realized it yet, but this realization will broaden over the course of the novel: he’s trapped in Louisiana, but this is his community.
Themes
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
Roots, Connections, and Morality Theme Icon
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