A Lesson Before Dying

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The wealthy, bigoted white man who reluctantly agrees to the sheriff to allow Miss Emma Glenn and Grant to visit Jefferson. For many years, Pichot employed both Tante Lou and Miss Emma in his mansion; Emma reminds him of this fact when she begs him for the right to visit Jefferson. Pichot is revealed to be a cruel, bloodthirsty man near the end of the novel, when Gaines makes it clear that Pichot made a bet with his friend that Jefferson would kill himself before the day of his execution—he even offers Jefferson a penknife, thinking that Jefferson will use it to hurt himself. In many ways, Pichot stands for the racist white establishment: he’s openly hostile to blacks, but also strangely weak in his need to see blacks demonstrate their own weakness. For Jefferson to stand proudly on the day he dies, then, is a major victory against Pichot.

Henri Pichot Quotes in A Lesson Before Dying

The A Lesson Before Dying quotes below are all either spoken by Henri Pichot or refer to Henri Pichot. 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 3 Quotes

Before I left for the university, my aunt sat me down at the table in our kitchen and said to me, “Me and Emma can make out all right without you coming through that back door ever again.” I had not come through that back door once since leaving for the university, ten years before. I had been teaching on the place going on six years, and I had not been in Pichot’s yard, let alone gone up the back stairs or through that back door.

Related Characters: Jefferson (speaker), Tante Lou, Miss Emma Glenn, Henri Pichot
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:

As a young man, Grant had to work for Henri Pichot, a bigoted, unfriendly white man who treats all black people with condescending disrespect. Like so many African Americans of the era, Grant resents his employer’s racism, but has no choice but to continue working for him: his financial neediness is a prison. It’s for this reason that Grant’s aunt encourages and helps him to educate himself. As his aunt Tante Lou sees it, education is a way out for Grant; a way for Grant to support himself without sacrificing his dignity or suffering the humiliation of working for a man like Pichot.

It’s hard to deny that Tante Lou has a point: as a schoolteacher, Grant has more autonomy and dignity than he would as Pichot’s servant (although, as we see, he still has to be subservient to white superiors). But the irony of Grant’s situation is that he’s only able to become an educated man because of his family’s hard, humiliating work for Pichot: in other words, he’s only able to become semi-independent because his loved ones become especially dependent on Pichot.

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Henri Pichot Character Timeline in A Lesson Before Dying

The timeline below shows where the character Henri Pichot appears in A Lesson Before Dying. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Racism Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
Roots, Connections, and Morality Theme Icon
...Jefferson. Lou and Emma tell Grant that they must all go and talk to Henri Pichot, the brother-in-law of the local sheriff. Grant insists, however, that he must go to Bayonne;... (full context)
Chapter 3
Heroism and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
...car, a ’46 Ford, thinking irritably that he not only has to talk to Henri Pichot but also act as his aunt’s chauffeur. He drives Tante Lou and Miss Emma past... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Heroism and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Grant arrives at Pichot’s house, which is large, painted white and grey, and built in an antebellum (pre-Civil War)... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
...She tells them that she heard about Jefferson, and, when Emma asks to speak to Pichot, goes to call Pichot from the library. Grant remembers killing chickens and gathering fruit for... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Heroism and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
Henri Pichot arrives in the kitchen, followed by Louis Rougon; both men are white, Grant notes. Pichot... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
In response to Emma’s pleas, Pichot tells her that he can’t promise anything; he looks at Grant. Grant thinks that he’s... (full context)
Chapter 4
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
Roots, Connections, and Morality Theme Icon
Grant drives Emma and Lou away from Pichot’s house. He drops off Emma at her house, and his aunt gets out of the... (full context)
Chapter 5
Racism Theme Icon
At two o’clock, Farrell Jarreau, a messenger for Henri Pichot, arrives at Grant’s classroom and tells Grant that Pichot wants to see him in the... (full context)
Chapter 6
Racism Theme Icon
Grant returns to Pichot’s house, entering through the back door once again. Inez greets him and Grant sees that... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
Inez goes to fetch Pichot, and Grant stands in the hall thinking about his afternoon. He returned from school to... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
Grant 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,... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
At seven thirty, Grant has been waiting for two and a half hours. Pichot, Rougon, Sam Guidry, and a fat man Grant doesn’t recognize walk into the hall. Grant... (full context)
Chapter 7
Education Theme Icon
...kindling for the winter. To prepare for the superintendent, whose visit Farrell Jarreau has heard Pichot discussing, Grant preps his students, spanning grades one to six, in civics and the Pledge... (full context)
Chapter 10
Racism Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Heroism and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
...jail. He tells Lou that he’s gone through great humiliation to teach Jefferson: waiting for Pichot to finish his dinner, being searched every time he enters the jail. He tells Lou... (full context)
Chapter 17
Racism Theme Icon
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
Roots, Connections, and Morality Theme Icon
...sheriff and the chief deputy talking to the fat man, Frank, who Grant saw at Pichot’s house. Guidry asks Grant if he’s made any progress, and Grant responds that he doesn’t... (full context)
Chapter 20
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
...date himself, but he’s come to ask Grant, along with Reverend Ambrose, to come to Pichot’s house so that they can tell Miss Emma the date. (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
...of the school day is still an hour away, Grant leaves school to go to Pichot’s house, telling Irene to take care of the children without explaining why he has to... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
In the front room of Pichot’s house, Pichot and Sheriff Guidry stand by the fireplace. Pichot looks worried, Grant thinks, but... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Sheriff Guidry uses Pichot’s telephone to call a doctor in the event that Emma needs one, but first he... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
Ambrose and Grant leave Pichot’s house, escorted out by a tearful Inez. Ambrose says that they must show courage for... (full context)
Chapter 21
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
...that Reverend Ambrose has told her what he said after the two of them left Pichot’s house. She tells him that she left food for him at home, and then ignores... (full context)
Chapter 29
Racism Theme Icon
The next entry describes a visit Jefferson receives from Sheriff Guidry, Henri Pichot, and “Mr. Morgan.” Pichot asks Jefferson how he’s doing; Jefferson says that he’s fine. Pichot... (full context)
Chapter 30
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
Heroism and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Roots, Connections, and Morality Theme Icon
...As Paul locks the cell door, Jefferson asks Paul to give Grant his diary and Pichot his knife and gold chain; Paul says that he will. Jefferson gives Paul a long... (full context)
Chapter 31
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
As Grant walks farther from the church, he looks at Henri Pichot’s enormous house. Grant thinks that it would be absurd if he believed in the same... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
Heroism and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Roots, Connections, and Morality Theme Icon
Grant looks at Henri Pichot’s house and wonders why Pichot hasn’t come outside. He notices a butterfly landing on a... (full context)