A Lesson Before Dying

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Fire, Heat, and Warmth Symbol Analysis

Fire, Heat, and Warmth Symbol Icon
Throughout A Lesson Before Dying, there are images that mention heat, warmth, and fire. The most obvious such image is that of the schoolhouse, which can only remain open during the coldest months of the year when everyone in the community donates firewood to power the church heater. In general, Gaines associates warmth and heat with optimism, hope, and inspiration: when Grant is on the point of abandoning Jefferson, he visits his girlfriend Vivian Baptiste and feels the warmth of her body, inspiring him to remain where he is. Conversely, when Jefferson visits his old schoolmaster, Matthew Antoine, he learns that Antoine has lost all the heat in his body—a process that parallels Antoine’s complete lack of optimism about the future of the schoolchildren and the black community. Hope, then, is the fuel that drives Grant’s community. The fact that Grant continues to arrange for the classroom to be heated suggests that he still has some hope for his children’s futures—perhaps they’ll be able to use their knowledge and education to improve their lives, and the lives of others.
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Fire, Heat, and Warmth Symbol Timeline in A Lesson Before Dying

The timeline below shows where the symbol Fire, Heat, and Warmth appears in A Lesson Before Dying. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3
Heroism and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
...and thinks about all the work he has to do, in particular, finding wood to heat the school. He teaches about twenty families’ children, and he asks each family to send... (full context)
Chapter 8
Education Theme Icon
...Henry Lewis and Amos Thomas, bring a load of wood, carried by a mule, to heat the school through the winter. As they take the wood around the school, Grant continues... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
...years of ignorance in only five and a half months. He said that he was cold, and would always be cold; he added that God would take care of the black... (full context)