Illustration of a man visiting another man in jail

A Lesson before Dying

by Ernest J. Gaines

Start Free Trial

Who is the narrator and what is the point-of-view of A Lesson Before Dying?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

A Lesson Before Dying is written from the first person narrative point of view. This means that the story is told from a character's point of view, and readers can expect the narrator to refer to himself as "I." We see this in the opening sentences of the story.

I was not there, yet I was there. No, I did not go to the trial, I did not hear the verdict, because I knew all the time what it would be. Still, I was there. I was there as much as anyone else was there.

In this story, the narrator is Grant Wiggins. First person narration gives readers a very clear view of what the narrator thinks and does, and that can be really useful; however, the first person narrative point of view is also automatically limited to what the narrator experiences, thinks, and feels. We can't know what another character is thinking or feeling unless they tell the narrator. There is one point in this book when the narrative point of view does sort of break away from first person. That occurs in chapter 29. Chapter 29 is completely composed of entries from Jefferson's diary. This means that this chapter is written from Jefferson's diary; however, readers are meant to assume that it is Grant that is reading the diary entries or is the person that has made them available to us.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

First-person narration is when a character in the story tells it. Therefore, the story is subjective in that the reader gets the thoughts and feelings of only one character. Everything is seen through the narrator's eyes, and his view may not always be accurate. Grant Wiggins is the first-person narrator of the story, so we see the events and the other characters through his eyes. In this book, however, Jefferson keeps a journal, so we are able to know his most personal thoughts when Wiggins reads what Jefferson has written.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial