Study Guide

A Lesson Before Dying Genre

By Ernest J. Gaines

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Young Adult Literature, Coming-of-Age, Historical Fiction

What do you expect from a teacher? Grant is used to talking to kids all day, so it's no surprise that he's the narrator of a young adult novel. It doesn't necessarily have to be read by teenagers; we're betting that even your grandparents might get a kick out of it. But it does have a sort of a didactic tone (That means it's trying to teach you something. See, you've already learned something!), which goes well with young adult literature.

Jefferson's journey from being a lost young man to feeling like a man who can stand on his own two feet plops this novel right down with the best of coming-of-age novels. Coming of age novels, or bildungsromans, are precisely about growing from adolescence into adulthood, and all the pain and suffering that implies.

Finally, A Lesson Before Dying was first published in 1993, but it's set in the late 1940s, which means that its author, Ernest J. Gaines, had to do some historical sleuthing in order to make sure he got his facts straight and created a world in the past. Luckily for us, Gaines was born in 1933, so he also just had to remember back to when he was coming-of-age.

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