Illustration of a man visiting another man in jail

A Lesson before Dying

by Ernest J. Gaines

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Chapter 14 Summary

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Vivian has left her children with Dora so she can visit Grant—she says she missed him. Grant is happy to have been rescued from a boring afternoon. Vivian looks around the room, and Grant apologizes for its spare nature. The room had belonged to his mother and father before they left to California during the war. The furnishings are old and practical; a few framed photographs are on the mantelpiece. Vivian picks up the picture of Grant’s mother and then the picture of his father. She looks around the rest of the room and claims that it looks rustic. Vivian goes to the window and Grant comes up behind her and puts his arm around her waist. When she turns, he kisses her tenderly. Grant can see in Vivian’s eyes that she loves him as much as he loves her. He offers her something to eat, and the two go to the kitchen for coffee.

Vivian stands at the back door looking over the yard and into the field where cane has been cut. She sits down with Grant to coffee and slice of chocolate cake and says it is very peaceful here. Grant thinks Sunday is the saddest day of the week, but Vivian reminds him that the day is not sad for those who work in the fields. Vivian tells Grant that he should go to church on Sundays because she knows that he still has faith, but Grant says that he only believes in loving her.

After they finish the coffee and cake, Vivian insists that they wash the dishes to be fair to Tante Lou. Then she and Grant take a walk through the quarter. Those who are not at church stay inside their homes, and only animals are outside, leaving the quarter quiet. Vivian and Grant cross the railroad tracks and come across a cemetery where many of Grant’s ancestors are buried. Grant cuts Vivian a piece of sugar cane, and she lets some of juice run down her chin. Farther into the fields, they come across a pecan tree, and they sit under the tree to crack and eat nuts. The two begin to make love under the tree, and Vivian tells Grant indirectly that she is pregnant. Grant begins to think that he does not want his child to grow up there in Louisiana, but Vivian tells him not to spoil the moment. They play with possible names—Paul, Molly, Paulette—and Grant holds Vivian close.

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