Illustration of a man visiting another man in jail

A Lesson before Dying

by Ernest J. Gaines

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Topics for Further Study

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Define capital punishment. Trace its history since ancient times. Discuss the reforms introduced throughout the ages to eliminate the use of capital punishment.

Research capital punishment. Take a position for or against it. Prepare to defend your position in a classroom debate.

Critics refer to Gaines as a master storyteller. He, himself, credits others for the stories they told when he was growing up and that he has borrowed. In other words, the “oral tradition” greatly influences his writing. Describe the relative importance of the tradition in various cultures and explain the purposes the tradition serves for different peoples.

Even though is set in the late 1940s, racism still exists in the small town of Bayonne. Trace the history of the Civil Rights movement. Relate your findings to the fictional events that occur in the story.

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