A Lesson Before Dying

Reverend Moses Ambrose Character Analysis

An influential minister in Grant and Jefferson's community, and a champion of faith and humility, Reverend Moses Ambrose takes an active role in Jefferson's life from the moment Jefferson is sentenced to death: he visits Jefferson in his jail cell and encourages others to visit as well. Ambrose is suspicious of Grant's religious values, and frequently tells Grant that he must improve Jefferson's soul, not just his life. Ambrose is also skeptical of the merits of higher education, and tells Grant that college has made him more, not less ignorant. Toward the end of the novel, Ambrose reveals that he sees himself as a "liar": a minister who uses his influence to propagate Christian stories of transcendence and hope that, while not literally true, give people the courage to live their lives and thus take on a kind of metaphysical truth. While Grant spends most of the novel in disagreement with Ambrose, he comes to see that Ambrose's strength and integrity, stemming from a sincere belief in God and Heaven, far exceed his own.

Reverend Moses Ambrose Quotes in A Lesson Before Dying

The A Lesson Before Dying quotes below are all either spoken by Reverend Moses Ambrose or refer to Reverend Moses Ambrose. 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 27 Quotes

“She been lying every day of her life, your aunt in there. That’s how you got through that university—cheating herself here, cheating herself there, but always telling you she’s all right. I’ve seen her hands bleed from picking cotton. I’ve seen the blisters from the hoe and the cane knife. At that church, crying on her knees. You ever looked at the scabs on her knees, boy? Course you never. ’Cause she never wanted you to see it. And that’s the difference between me and you, boy; that make me the educated one, and you the gump. I know my people. I know what they gone through. I know they done cheated themself, lied to themself—hoping that one they all love and trust can come back and help relieve the pain.”

Related Characters: Reverend Moses Ambrose (speaker), Grant Wiggins, Tante Lou
Page Number: 221
Explanation and Analysis:

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Reverend Moses Ambrose Character Timeline in A Lesson Before Dying

The timeline below shows where the character Reverend Moses Ambrose appears in A Lesson Before Dying. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Racism Theme Icon
...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 red-faced and white-haired, asks Jefferson if... (full context)
Chapter 3
Racism Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
...years. Pichot urges Emma to forget her plans, worry about Jefferson’s soul, and let Reverend Ambrose visit Jefferson before he dies. Emma refuses, though she acknowledges that Ambrose will visit him—Jefferson... (full context)
Chapter 13
Education Theme Icon
...for the first time. 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... (full context)
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
Reverend Ambrose asks Grant what he thinks about Jefferson, deep in his heart. Grant is unsure how... (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 time... (full context)
Chapter 16
Education Theme Icon
...is Monday, and 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,... (full context)
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
Heroism and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
Roots, Connections, and Morality Theme Icon
On Monday, Grant sits at Miss Emma’s kitchen table with Reverend Ambrose and his aunt. Emma bursts into tears and asks God what she’s done to deserve... (full context)
Chapter 17
Racism Theme Icon
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
Roots, Connections, and Morality Theme Icon
...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 convincing Guidry... (full context)
Chapter 18
Racism Theme Icon
...reply 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,... (full context)
Chapter 19
Education Theme Icon
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
...to Jefferson; for this reason, many people who don’t usually attend the program go. Reverend Ambrose comes, and everyone wears good clothing, if not quite the best clothing they own. (full context)
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
At seven o’clock, Grant announces the beginning of the program, and invites Reverend Ambrose to walk out onstage to say a prayer. Afterwards, the children sing songs, including “Silent... (full context)
Chapter 20
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
...doesn’t know the exact 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
...at Pichot’s house, where Inez offers him a cup of coffee, which he declines. Reverend Ambrose is already waiting in the hall; he asks Grant how his aunt is, but isn’t... (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... (full context)
Chapter 21
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
...are two cars parked in front of the house, one of which belongs to Reverend Ambrose. Grant walks inside, where he sees Inez sitting with Miss Emma, along with Tante Lou... (full context)
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
...emotional she’s almost unable to speak, but she tells Grant that Jefferson is in Reverend Ambrose and his hands—she hopes he and the Reverend can work together. When he walks out... (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 all three visitors... (full context)
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
Heroism and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...Emma that Jefferson refuses to go to the dayroom without his radio; Emma, Lou, and Ambrose decide that they will speak to Jefferson in his cell instead, even though Paul warns... (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 a radio.... (full context)
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
Heroism and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Grant continues to argue with Ambrose, Miss Emma, and Tante Lou. He tells them that his previous visit to the jailhouse... (full context)
Heroism and Sacrifice Theme Icon
The Wednesday after his conversation with Ambrose Grant visits Jefferson again. The previous day, he enlisted his schoolchildren to pick pecans for... (full context)
Education Theme Icon
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
Roots, Connections, and Morality Theme Icon
Grant asks Jefferson about Lou, Emma, and Ambrose’s last visit. He asks Jefferson to promise that when they next visit him, he’ll go... (full context)
Chapter 24
Education Theme Icon
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
Heroism and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Miss Emma proposes that Grant go to the jailhouse with Lou and Ambrose as often as possible, and though Grant doesn’t want to spend time with Ambrose after... (full context)
Education Theme Icon
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
Heroism and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
...and Grant almost forgets to say grace before the meal; he notices that Jefferson remembers. Ambrose prays to God for salvation for all the sinners in Bayonne. Grant and Jefferson don’t... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
Heroism and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
Roots, Connections, and Morality Theme Icon
...as they are by Sheriff Guidry. He tells Jefferson that whites feel safe with Reverend Ambrose, but that he doesn’t want them to feel safe with Jefferson, without explaining what he... (full context)
Chapter 25
Education Theme Icon
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
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... (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 about the beans... (full context)
Education Theme Icon
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
Heroism and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Roots, Connections, and Morality Theme Icon
Ambrose enters the room; though Grant invites him to sit, he says that he prefers to... (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 is annoyed with Ambrose, and gets up to leave. As he does so, Ambrose puts his hand on Grant’s... (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
Ambrose proposes that Grant tell Jefferson about heaven, even though he doesn’t believe it to be... (full context)
Chapter 28
Education Theme Icon
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
Heroism and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Grant tells Jefferson that he should talk to Reverend Ambrose. Jefferson replies that on his last visit, Ambrose told him to pray to God. He... (full context)
Chapter 29
Heroism and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...Emma, during which she brought him Easter eggs. Also present at the visit was Reverend Ambrose, who told him that Christ died for his sins. (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
...to see Miss Emma one more time before he’s executed. He has heard from Reverend Ambrose and Lou that Emma is ill; he hopes that he can see her one more... (full context)
Chapter 30
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
Heroism and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Roots, Connections, and Morality Theme Icon
...Emma, as do many other members of the community. Lou stays there all night, while Ambrose leaves around midnight to get some sleep, knowing that Sheriff Guidry wants all witnesses to... (full context)
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
Heroism and Sacrifice Theme Icon
The next morning, Reverend Ambrose, who is to read Jefferson his last rights, wakes up and prays that God will... (full context)
Chapter 31
Education Theme Icon
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
Heroism and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...other children he played with; since then, some have been killed. At 10:55, he sees Ambrose driving to the courthouse with Henry Williams. He goes into the church and dismisses the... (full context)
Education Theme Icon
Religion, Cynicism, and Hope Theme Icon
Roots, Connections, and Morality Theme Icon
Grant wonders if God is with Jefferson. God is with Ambrose, he is certain, because Ambrose believes in God. Grant thinks that Ambrose is much stronger... (full context)