Illustration of a man visiting another man in jail

A Lesson before Dying

by Ernest J. Gaines

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Chapter 22 Summary

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Grant goes to the jail, and Paul must search him as usual. However, Grant can tell from Paul’s light touch that he does not see the need to search Grant and that he must only do so because the chief deputy is watching. Grant tells Paul that he will meet with Jefferson in his cell today, and Paul asks Grant if he wants him to remain nearby. Paul says things might be different now that the date of execution has been set, but Grant does not think it will be necessary. On the way to the cell, the other prisoners do not call out to Grant the way they have on previous visits.

Grant asks Jefferson how he is doing and sets the bag of food near his bunk. Jefferson says he is doing fine, and he asks what day it is. It is Friday. Jefferson says it looks like good weather outside and asks Grant if he thinks it will be nice outside on the day of his execution. Grant does not answer him until Jefferson turns to look at him; then he tells Jefferson that he hopes it will be the kind of day that he wants it to be. Jefferson says he has never gotten anything he wanted, and on his last day he wants an entire gallon of vanilla ice cream. Grant tells Jefferson about news from the quarter—Stella and Gable had their baby. Jefferson recalls that he and Gable were supposed to go hunting the day he got mixed up with Brother and Bear. Grant gives more news, but Jefferson does not seem to be listening. Then Grant offers to bring Jefferson a radio so he can listen to music.

When Paul returns to let Grant out of the cell, he asks how the visit went and Grant answers that it was better than all the previous visits. Paul promises to deliver the radio to Jefferson when Grant drops it off. Instead of going home to get money, Grant thinks he can borrow some from Vivian, so he goes to wait for her at the Rainbow Club. After he tells Joe Claiborne his intentions, Claiborne and some other men in the bar give Grant some money. Grant goes into the café, and Thelma serves him food and gives him the rest of the money he needs to buy the radio.

Grant goes to Edwin’s and picks out a small radio. While testing the stations, a saleswoman asks if he plans to buy the radio. Grant tells her that he wants a new one in a box, but the woman claims that the one on the shelf is new. Grant insists, and the saleswoman makes him wait fifteen minutes before returning with a new, boxed radio. Grant returns to the jail, and the sheriff says that next time he needs permission before bringing items to the jail. The sheriff takes the radio and asks how the visit went. Grant leaves and drives back to the Rainbow Club, hoping to see Vivian.

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Chapter 21 Summary


Chapter 23 Summary