Illustration of a man visiting another man in jail

A Lesson before Dying

by Ernest J. Gaines

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Chapter 6 Summary

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Grant arrives at Mr. Henri’s house at ten minutes to five, and Inez opens the door for him before he can knock. She has been crying, yet she offers Grant a cup of coffee and a seat. Inez reveals that Mr. Louis is betting an entire case of whiskey that Grant cannot prepare Jefferson for his death. Grant asks about Mr. Henri’s response; Inez says Mr. Henri is betting neither for nor against him. The sheriff, Sam Guidry, does not arrive until 5:30, and Inez takes a round of drinks into the library. When she returns, she tells Grant that she does not think it will take much longer.

At 6:00, the sheriff’s wife, Edna, comes into the kitchen and greets Grant. She exclaims that she has not seen him in years and that he looks fine. Edna makes small talk and says the sheriff will speak to Grant after dinner. Inez prepares the food and asks Grant if he wants to eat dinner. Even though he is hungry, Grant refuses to eat at Mr. Henri’s dinner table. When Inez returns from serving dinner, she reveals to Grant that the sheriff thinks that allowing Grant to go into the jail is a bad idea because nothing can turn Jefferson into a man.

By the time Sam Guidry, Mr. Henri, Mr. Louis, and another white man come to talk to Grant, it is two and a half hours later. Grant is not sure how to address them: to speak with too much intelligence would insult the men but to speak with too little would insult himself. Grant tells Guidry what Miss Emma wants, and Guidry asks whether Grant thinks that it is a good idea to try to allow Jefferson to die with some dignity. Grant admits that he does not want anything to do with the plan, and Guidry says that his wife is the one who is pushing him to grant Miss Emma’s wish. Guidry tells Grant that he believes Grant is too smart for his own good and that Grant will try to put ideas into Jefferson’s head. But Guidry grants the request and says that he will call it off if he sees any sign of aggravation. Guidry wishes him luck but says he thinks it will be a waste of time. Grant waits until the men leave the kitchen before leaving and driving home.

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