A Lesson Before Dying

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Sam Guidry’s wife. She is one of the only white characters in the novel who shows respect for blacks, though even her respect is less than what one might desire. Edna is instrumental in convincing Sam to allow Jefferson to have visitors, and she continues to show great concern for Jefferson throughout the novel. At the same time, she wishes aloud that the whole thing would just be finished, which seems a callous way to think about a process that will end in the execution of a man.

Edna Guidry Quotes in A Lesson Before Dying

The A Lesson Before Dying quotes below are all either spoken by Edna Guidry or refer to Edna Guidry. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Racism Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of A Lesson Before Dying published in 1994.
Chapter 6 Quotes

Edna turned back to me. “Grant, please tell Emma how sorry I am about Jefferson. I would do it myself, but I’m just too broken up over this matter. I ran into Madame Gropé just the other day; Lord, how sad she looks. Just dragging along. Poor old thing. I had to put my arms round her.” Edna drank from her glass.

Related Characters: Edna Guidry (speaker), Grant Wiggins , Jefferson
Related Symbols: Food and Meals
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Gaines gives us a window into the personality of Edna Guidry, one of the few white characters in the novel who shows sympathy for black people. Edna knows that Jefferson is going to be executed for his supposed crimes, and she seems to grasp at least some of the injustice in this: she recognizes that Jefferson’s death is going to affect the lives of other people, such as Miss Emma and Tante Lou. It’s surely not a coincidence that Edna, one of the only compassionate white characters in the novel, is also a woman: Gaines implies that Edna’s own position of subservience to white men makes her sympathetic to black men and women who are also subservient to white men.

And yet, in spite of Edna’s sympathy for Jefferson, she’s not nearly as compassionate as we might expect her to be: note that Emma is still drinking from her glass as she speaks to Grant, and that she’s supposedly too “broken up” to talk to Miss Emma herself. Put another way, Edna is concerned, but her concern also seems a bit like a performance to make herself feel like a good person. Her concern doesn't drive her to action; it's just a condescending concern. Perhaps it’s fair to say that Edna is a naturally kind and loving woman, who’s nonetheless partly blinded by the bigotry of her society. No matter how hard she tries, she can’t quite conceive of Jefferson as a full human being who’s deserving of her sympathy.


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Edna Guidry Character Timeline in A Lesson Before Dying

The timeline below shows where the character Edna Guidry appears in A Lesson Before Dying. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 6
Racism Theme Icon
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
...waits an hour in the hall while Inez goes to get Pichot. At six o’clock, Edna Guidry, a woman in her early fifties and the sheriff’s wife, greets Grant and inquires... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
...that he wishes he weren’t involved in the affair at all. Guidry tells Grant that Edna, his wife, wants him to let Grant talk to Jefferson. He tries to trap Grant... (full context)
Chapter 17
Racism Theme Icon
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
Roots, Connections, and Morality Theme Icon
...that he isn’t. Guidry reveals that Miss Emma, Reverend Ambrose, and Tante Lou went to Edna Guidry and asked for her help in convincing Guidry to put some chairs in Jefferson’s... (full context)
Chapter 30
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
Heroism and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...go smoothly that day, thinking that he wishes this day had never come. He tells Edna, his wife, that he spoke to Grant earlier, and asked him if he would be... (full context)