Why does Emma hit Jefferson during her visit to his cell?

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cybil eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jefferson asks Miss Emma if she brought any corn for him when she begs him to eat something. He says, "Corn for a hog," and Miss Emma tries to convince him, of course, that he's not a hog, regardless of what the lawyer said in court. Jefferson persists, however, declaring that's all he is, that he is "fattening up to---," comparing himself to a hog being fattened up to be slaughtered. Then Miss Emma slaps him out of frustration and anger because she has been unable to help him see he is not a hog, not some kind of an animal. She loves Jefferson, but her striking him suggests that she wishes there were some way she could get him to stop saying the very words she doesn't want to hear, the words she doesn't want him to believe. Notice that she falls on him and cries afterward. Her only hope is that Grant will somehow be able to get through to Jefferson to convince him that he's a man, not a hog.

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A Lesson before Dying

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