Illustration of a man visiting another man in jail

A Lesson before Dying

by Ernest J. Gaines
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A Lesson Before Dying Reading Quiz and Essay Questions

by Michael Stultz, M.A.

  • Released February 12, 2019
  • Language Arts subject
  • 0 pages
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Grade Levels

Grade 12


A Lesson Before Dying Reading Quiz

  • The first and last chapters are written in ______________- person point of view. a) first b) second c) third
  • Jefferson serves as a ______________- figure for the black community. a) Judas b) Christ c) Moses
  • The novel begins in _______________ and ends in _______________. a) April; October b) October; April c) December; April
  • The two women who put the most pressure on Grant to visit Jefferson are ____________. a) Emma & Tante Lou b) Vivian & Emma c) Vivian & Tante Lou
  • Who says, “So each time a male child is born, they hope he will be theone to change this vicious circle--which he never does. Because eventhough he wants to change it, and maybe even tries to change it, it istoo heavy a burden because of all the others who have run away andleft their burdens behind.... I can give them something that neither ahusband, a father, nor a grandfather ever did, so they want to hold onas long as they can. Not realizing that their holding on will break metoo."? a) Grant b) Jefferson c) Rev. Ambrose
  • Why does Vivian tell Grant she is disgusted by his behavior? a) He speaks disrespectfully to his aunt. b) He does not think about anyone except himself c) He refuses to go to church d) He refuses to visit Jefferson when initially asked
  • True or False. Vivian and Mathew Antoine are mulatto characters.
  • In what way does Jefferson open up to Grant and reveal himself (his fears, his courage) to not only Grant, but also to his jailers? a) in his electric chair confession b) through his journal c) letters to Tante Lou
  • What important event is presented from multiple points of view (--those of Sidney deRogers, Tante Lou, Reverend Ambrose, Sheriff Guidry, Melvina Jack, Fee Jinkins)? a) the murder in the store b) the trial c) the execution
  • Jefferson’s last spoken words to Grant are: a) "I'm all right, Mr. Wiggins." b) “Pray for me, Mr. Wiggins.” c) “Tell ‘em I’m innocent, Mr. Wiggins.”
  • To Grant, Reverend Ambrose says that _________ among the black community is justified. a) infidelity b) lying c) stealing d) laziness
  • Who says that Black men have failed to protect their women since the time of slavery. a) Grant b) Tante Lou c) Jefferson d) Paul
  • What setting serves as an escape from reality for Grant? a) St. Raphael Parish b) Bayonne c) Rainbow Club d) Pichot Plantation
  • Dr. Joseph, the white superintendent of schools in St. Raphael Parish, is mainly worried about the black students’ ____________ during his visit. a) hygiene b) politeness c) public speaking d) math skills
  • Music is a powerful symbol in the novel. What are the names of the songs the members of the congregation sing that symbolize Jefferson’s execution? a) “redemption songs” b) “termination songs” c) “the blues gospels” d) “battle hymns”

Short-Answer Essay: Answer two of the following in paragraph form on a separate sheet of paper. Be sure to use idea-based topic sentences and specific examples to follow.

  • Women play a significant role in the book. Examine the scenes between Grant and Tante Lou, Grant and Vivian, and Jefferson and Miss Emma, (BE SPECIFIC) and discuss how Gaines’s women cause others characters to change. In what ways do these interactions reflect the roles of black women within their families and in African-American society?
  • Grant’s task is to affirm that Jefferson is not a hog, but a man. The mission is doubly difficult because Grant is not sure he knows what a man is. What definition of manhood, or humanity, does A Lesson Before Dying provide? Why is manhood an important notion within the book’s environment?
  • From the manslaughter that begins this novel to the judicial murder at its close, death is a constant presence in A Lesson Before Dying. We are repeatedly reminded of all the untimely, violent deaths that have preceded Jefferson’s and, in all likelihood, will follow it. Why then is Jefferson’s death so disturbing to this book’s black characters, and even to some of its white ones? What does Jefferson’s death accomplish that his life could not?


Multiple choice, reading comprehension questions, quote IDs on the novel and 3 essay questions