Illustration of a man visiting another man in jail

A Lesson before Dying

by Ernest J. Gaines

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Chapter 13 Summary

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Miss Eloise Bouie arrives after the second church bell rings so that she and Tante Lou can walk to the service together. Tante Lou comes out and does not look at Grant as she leaves; years ago, she stopped looking at Grant when she was on her way to church. When Grant returned home from university, he told his aunt that he no longer believed in religion and that he did not want her to try to force it on him. Grant watches the ladies walk up the quarter and pick up Miss Emma on their way to the church. Grant goes back inside to try to correct more school papers. That morning, he had accomplished little because Tante Lou was up early preparing for church and singing her “Termination” song, a hymn sung every third Sunday of the month that represented where the singer is determined to spend eternity. Grant sits down to work, but all he can think about is Friday night.

When he arrived home, Reverend Ambrose and Miss Emma were at the house with Tante Lou. Grant felt guilty about coming in so late. He said hello and excused himself to his room. His aunt pushed him for details about his visit with Jefferson, and all Grant said was that Jefferson had been alright. When Tante Lou asked for more information, Grant looked at Miss Emma and said that he saw she had recovered from her cold. Grant’s sly comment angered Tante Lou, and she told him sternly to sit down and share specific details about the visit. Grant was vague, and Tante Lou asked him what they talked about. Grant said that Guidry and the deputy told him that Jefferson did not cause any trouble and that he was doing fine. Miss Emma and Tante Lou looked at Grant, and he knew that they wanted to believe him but remained in doubt. Tante Lou still wanted more information. Grant said he could not remember everything that they talked about and that he went to see Vivian after leaving the jail. Tante Lou accused Grant of possibly having avoided the jail and going only to see Vivian; Grant told her she could call the jail to check. Reverend Ambrose then asked Grant what he thought Jefferson has been thinking deep in his mind, in his soul, but Grant said he knows nothing about the soul. The Reverend wanted to know if they talked about God during the visit, and Grant said they did not. Reverend Ambrose said that on his upcoming visit, he would take a Bible for Jefferson.

Now sitting at his worktable listening to the singing coming from the church, Grant again thinks that his life is running in place there in Louisiana. Then he hears a car stop outside the house. To his surprise, Vivian appears in the doorway—she has never visited his home before.

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Chapter 12 Summary


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