A Lesson Before Dying

Miss Emma Glenn Character Analysis

Jefferson’s elderly grandmother, or “nannan,” as he calls her, Miss Emma Glenn loves Jefferson to the point where his conviction and sentencing make her seriously ill, as does the fact that he has taken the defense attorney’s words to heart and sees himself as more animal than man. She desperately wants Jefferson to learn to be a man before his execution, to face his death as a man. It is Emma who first suggests that Grant speak to Jefferson before his execution; despite her obvious desire that Grant do so, she often says that Grant needn’t do anything he doesn’t want to do. Emma’s love for Jefferson also inspires her to talk to Henri Pichot, for whom she worked for many years—it’s only after she asks Pichot for permission to see Jefferson that she—and Grant—begin visiting the jailhouse.

Miss Emma Glenn Quotes in A Lesson Before Dying

The A Lesson Before Dying quotes below are all either spoken by Miss Emma Glenn or refer to Miss Emma Glenn. 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 2 Quotes

“What can I do? It’s only a matter of weeks, a couple of months, maybe. What can I do that you haven’t done the past twenty-one years?”
“You the teacher,” she said.
“Yes, I’m the teacher,” I said. “And I teach what the white folks around here tell me to teach— reading, writing, and ’rithmetic. They never told me how to keep a black boy out of a liquor store.”

Related Characters: Grant Wiggins (speaker), Miss Emma Glenn (speaker), Jefferson
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

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“He don’t have to do it,” Miss Emma said ...

Related Characters: Miss Emma Glenn (speaker), Grant Wiggins
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Chapter 17 Quotes

“I don’t know when I’m going to die, Jefferson. Maybe tomorrow, maybe next week, maybe today. That’s why I try to live as well as I can every day and not hurt people. Especially people who love me, people who have done so much for me, people who have sacrificed for me. I don’t want to hurt those people. I want to help those people as much as I can.”
“You can talk like that; you know you go’n walk out here in a hour. I bet you wouldn’t be talking like that if you knowed you was go’n stay in here.”
“In here or out of here, Jefferson, what does it benefit you to hurt someone who loves you, who has done so much for you?”

Related Characters: Grant Wiggins (speaker), Jefferson (speaker), Miss Emma Glenn
Page Number: 129
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Chapter 21 Quotes

“We black men have failed to protect our women since the time of slavery. We stay here in the South and are broken, or we run away and leave them alone to look after the children and themselves. So each time a male child is born, they hope he will be the one to change this vicious circle—which he never does … What she wants is for him, Jefferson, and me to change everything that has been going on for three hundred years. She wants it to happen so in case she ever gets out of her bed again, she can go to that little church there in the quarter and say proudly, ‘You see, I told you—I told you he was a man.’

Related Characters: Grant Wiggins (speaker), Jefferson, Miss Emma Glenn
Page Number: 169
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Miss Emma Glenn Character Timeline in A Lesson Before Dying

The timeline below shows where the character Miss Emma Glenn appears in A Lesson Before Dying. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Racism Theme Icon
...Friday. On Monday, at ten o’clock, the narrator’s aunt sits in the courthouse with Miss Emma, Jefferson’s “nannan,” and Reverend Moses Ambrose, the pastor of their church. The judge, who is... (full context)
Chapter 2
Education Theme Icon
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
Roots, Connections, and Morality Theme Icon
...from school on Monday afternoon and sees his aunt sitting in his kitchen with Miss Emma, the last person he wants to see. He retires to his bedroom without either of... (full context)
Education Theme Icon
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
Roots, Connections, and Morality Theme Icon
...as Tante Lou, enters the room. She asks him why he hasn’t spoken to Miss Emma, and tells him that Miss Emma needs to talk to him. He replies that he... (full context)
Education Theme Icon
Heroism and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
The narrator, who Lou addresses as Grant, goes to the kitchen to talk to Miss Emma. Emma’s full name is Emma Glenn, and Grant thinks that she is about seventy years... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
Roots, Connections, and Morality Theme Icon
Grant tells Miss Emma that he only knows how to teach what white people have taught him to teach,... (full context)
Chapter 3
Heroism and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
...Henri Pichot but also act as his aunt’s chauffeur. He drives Tante Lou and Miss Emma past the school where he teaches, and thinks about all the work he has to... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Heroism and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...painted white and grey, and built in an antebellum (pre-Civil War) style. He, Lou, and Emma walk to an entrance on the house; normally, only tractors and wagons go this way.... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
In the kitchen, Grant, Lou, and Emma meet the maid, Inez Lane, dressed in white. She tells them that she heard about... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Heroism and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
...family owns a bank in a nearby town, and Pichot owns a plantation. Pichot asks Emma what he can do for her, but seems annoyed at being interrupted. Rougon and Pichot... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
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In response to Emma’s pleas, Pichot tells her that he can’t promise anything; he looks at Grant. Grant thinks... (full context)
Chapter 4
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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... (full context)
Education Theme Icon
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
Heroism and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Roots, Connections, and Morality Theme Icon
...dance, slowly, and Grant tells Vivian that Jefferson has been sentenced to death, and that Emma wants him to visit Jefferson and teach him to be a man. He isn’t sure... (full context)
Chapter 6
Racism Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
...Grant stands in the hall thinking about his afternoon. He returned from school to find Emma and Lou shelling pecans. He told them he was going to Pichot’s house, and neither... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
...die with dignity. He adds that he would speak to Jefferson as a favor to Emma, and that he wishes he weren’t involved in the affair at all. Guidry tells Grant... (full context)
Chapter 9
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
A short time after receiving the first winter kindling, Grant takes Miss Emma to Bayonne—they are visiting Jefferson for the first time since he was sentenced. Tante Lou... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Grant and Emma arrive at the jailhouse where Jefferson is being held. It is a red brick building... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Heroism and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Paul leads Emma and Grant to Jefferson’s cell. As they walk there, the other prisoners ask Emma and... (full context)
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Heroism and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Roots, Connections, and Morality Theme Icon
Jefferson is quiet, and even when Emma strokes his hair he doesn’t speak. Emma shows him the food she’s brought him: fried... (full context)
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Heroism and Sacrifice Theme Icon
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Paul returns and opens the cell door. Emma tells Jefferson that they’ll be back soon. She leaves the food with him, and asks... (full context)
Chapter 10
Education Theme Icon
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
Grant’s next two visits to Jefferson’s cell with Emma establish a routine: Grant drives Emma to the jail; the guards search the two of... (full context)
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
Roots, Connections, and Morality Theme Icon
...of Grant’s fourth visit, he leaves Irene in charge of the students, and drives to Emma’s house as usual. When Emma doesn’t come out, Grant sees Tante Lou emerge from the... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Heroism and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
Grant sees Emma sitting in a rocking chair; she gives a theatrical cough, to convince Grant, he thinks,... (full context)
Chapter 11
Education Theme Icon
Heroism and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...but Grant senses that Jefferson is manipulating him. Grant has some of the friend chicken Emma made, and Jefferson eats the biscuits, candy, and cakes without using his hands—he calls himself... (full context)
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
Grant says he’s going to return to Emma and tell her that Jefferson liked the pralines she made him; he will not, however,... (full context)
Heroism and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
...lets Grant out of the cell. Grant asks Jefferson if there’s anything he should tell Emma, but Jefferson doesn’t answer. Paul asks how the visit went, and Grant replies that Jefferson... (full context)
Chapter 12
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
In the afternoon, Grant isn’t sure what to tell Emma about his visit. He could lie and say that Jefferson asked about Emma’s health, or... (full context)
Education Theme Icon
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
...tells Vivian about visiting Jefferson, watching him behave like an animal, and having to see Emma later. Vivian is saddened by the news. Grant says he wishes he could leave his... (full context)
Chapter 13
Education Theme Icon
...Grant returned from Bayonne late in the evening, and found Reverend Ambrose, Lou, and Miss Emma waiting in Emma’s home. Tante Lou is furious with Grant for not returning from his... (full context)
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
...“get around” to talking about God. Ambrose plans to visit Jefferson on Monday, along with Emma and Lou; Grant recommends that they bring him food and clothing. When Ambrose asks about... (full context)
Education Theme Icon
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
Roots, Connections, and Morality Theme Icon
On Sunday, as Grant grades papers, he hears Emma, Ambrose, and Lou singing in the church. He thinks about losing his faith during his... (full context)
Chapter 16
Education Theme Icon
...Grant is walking through the schoolyard when he sees his aunt, Reverend Ambrose, and Miss Emma returning from their visit to Jefferson. Grant quickly goes inside his schoolhouse, thinking that it’s... (full context)
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
Roots, Connections, and Morality Theme Icon
Grant goes to Miss Emma’s house shortly after he sends his students home. There, Emma confronts him, insisting that Grant... (full context)
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On Monday, Grant sits at Miss Emma’s kitchen table with Reverend Ambrose and his aunt. Emma bursts into tears and asks God... (full context)
Chapter 17
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Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
The Friday of the week that Grant visits Miss Emma’s house, he goes to see Jefferson at the jailhouse. Before Friday, however, he becomes much... (full context)
Education Theme Icon
Heroism and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
Roots, Connections, and Morality Theme Icon
...hungry; Grant leaves the food for the other inmates. He tells Jefferson that he’s upset Emma terribly, and Jefferson responds that everyone cries sooner or later. Grant says that Jefferson needs... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
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Women and Femininity Theme Icon
Roots, Connections, and Morality Theme Icon
...Grant if he’s “planning anything,” and Grant answers that he isn’t. Guidry reveals that Miss Emma, Reverend Ambrose, and Tante Lou went to Edna Guidry and asked for her help in... (full context)
Chapter 18
Racism Theme Icon
...frustrates the sheriff, but eventually he agrees to send Jefferson to the dayroom when Ambrose, Emma, and Lou and next visit the jailhouse. (full context)
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
When Ambrose, Emma, and Lou next see Jefferson, they’re shown into the dayroom of the jail. Then, Paul... (full context)
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
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Grant goes to see Jefferson in the dayroom a few days after Jefferson sees Miss Emma. Grant brings Jefferson bread, pork chops, and baked sweet potatoes, but Jefferson refuses to eat... (full context)
Chapter 19
Roots, Connections, and Morality Theme Icon
...Julia Lavonia, who has two children in the program, Irene the student teacher’s family, Miss Emma and Miss Eloise, Inez, Farrell Jarreau, his mulatto wife, Ofelia, and a man named Henry... (full context)
Chapter 20
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
...along with Reverend Ambrose, to come to Pichot’s house so that they can tell Miss Emma the date. (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
...Jefferson will become agitated in the future. He also mentions that his wife says that Emma might need a doctor; he’ll provide one if she so needs. Grant asks why the... (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 determines from Pichot that the drive through the quarter will... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
...a tearful Inez. Ambrose says that they must show courage for the sake of Miss Emma, but Grant insists that he can’t go to tell Emma that Jefferson is going to... (full context)
Chapter 21
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
Grant is standing in front of Miss Emma’s house following the events of the last chapter. There are two cars parked in front... (full context)
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
...to explain exactly why, Grant tells Vivian that he has to go back to Miss Emma’s, and that he wants Vivian to come with him. Vivian agrees to come, and they... (full context)
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
Grant walks into Miss Emma’s and introduces Vivian to those who haven’t already met her. Tante Lou is very polite... (full context)
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
Roots, Connections, and Morality Theme Icon
Grant and Vivian decide to leave Miss Emma’s house and go to the Rainbow Club. Twenty minutes later, they’re sitting in the club,... (full context)
Chapter 23
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
Roots, Connections, and Morality Theme Icon
On Monday, Tante Lou, Miss Emma, and Reverend Ambrose go to the jailhouse to visit Jefferson. At the jailhouse, Paul searches... (full context)
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
Heroism and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Paul informs Miss Emma that Jefferson refuses to go to the dayroom without his radio; Emma, Lou, and Ambrose... (full context)
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Sheriff Guidry, who is sitting in his office in the jail, asks Miss Emma if Jefferson is giving them any trouble now that he has a radio. Miss Emma... (full context)
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
After returning from the jailhouse, Tante Lou, Miss Emma, and Ambrose visit Grant and tell him that he’s caused a problem by bringing Jefferson... (full context)
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Grant continues to argue with Ambrose, Miss Emma, and Tante Lou. He tells them that his previous visit to the jailhouse was the... (full context)
Chapter 24
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Miss Emma proposes that Grant go to the jailhouse with Lou and Ambrose as often as possible,... (full context)
Education Theme Icon
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In the dayroom, Jefferson doesn’t respond when Miss Emma shows him the food she’s brought, but he answers Grant when Grant greets him. The... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
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Women and Femininity Theme Icon
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...with Jefferson in shackles. Grant tells Jefferson that he should be a friend to Miss Emma, and asks him if he’ll eat some of her gumbo; Jefferson gives a slight nod.... (full context)
Chapter 25
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Roots, Connections, and Morality Theme Icon
After visiting Jefferson, Ambrose, Lou, and Emma drive back to their homes, and Grant goes to the Rainbow Club to tell Vivian... (full context)
Chapter 27
Heroism and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
It is a Sunday, and Grant is sitting in his bed. Emma, Lou, and Ambrose have just arrived at his house, having come from church. He thinks... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
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...calls him “boy,” which infuriates Grant. Ambrose tells Grant that Jefferson must be strong for Emma so that she can enjoy her few remaining years; to be strong, he says, Jefferson... (full context)
Chapter 28
Education Theme Icon
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
Heroism and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...Grant tells Jefferson that he must give up material possessions and strive to make Miss Emma happy before he dies. He tells Jefferson that he believes in God, and that he... (full context)
Chapter 29
Heroism and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...remembers walking to a door. He goes on to describe a recent visit from Miss Emma, during which she brought him Easter eggs. Also present at the visit was Reverend Ambrose,... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
...from a Monday, just a few days before Jefferson’s execution. Jefferson wants to see Miss Emma one more time before he’s executed. He has heard from Reverend Ambrose and Lou that... (full context)
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Women and Femininity Theme Icon
Roots, Connections, and Morality Theme Icon
...few days later, the guards bring Jefferson to the dayroom to say goodbye to Miss Emma, who is very ill. When she sees Jefferson, she pulls him close to her and... (full context)
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Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
Heroism and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
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...insulting Vivian. He describes the visit Grant and Vivian make to see him after Miss Emma’s visit—he thinks Vivian is the prettiest woman he’s ever seen, and enjoys it when Vivian... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
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...Jefferson what he wants for his last meal; Jefferson requests pork chops cooked by Miss Emma, with a little ice cream and a moon pie for desert. The guards take Jefferson... (full context)
Chapter 30
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Tante Lou spends the night with Miss Emma, as do many other members of the community. Lou stays there all night, while Ambrose... (full context)
Chapter 31
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...the strongest man in the room when he was killed. Jefferson asked Paul to tell Emma that he was “walking” to his grave. (full context)