Study Guide

Reverend Mose Ambrose in A Lesson Before Dying

By Ernest J. Gaines

Reverend Mose Ambrose

This guy sure knows how to push Grant's buttons. And vice versa. Mose, being a religious man, has a lot of bones to pick with the nonbeliever Grant. He shows us just how dogmatic society can be, because he refuses to think about the here and now, and is much more concerned with the hereafter.

However, there is something to be said for how devoted he is to Jefferson and Miss Emma. Even though Grant considers the Reverend to be kind of a useless figure, because he's more worried about heaven than about the problems that people are dealing with every day in the world, he actually has a lot to do with helping people through their earthly problems.

He never complains or has a bad attitude about visiting them, like Grant does, and really seems to care about his flock. However, the Reverend himself admits that his work is hard and that sometimes he has to lie to keep people in the faith:

"That's why you look down on me, because you know I lie. At wakes, at funerals, at weddings—yes, I lie. I lie at wakes and funerals to relieve pain. [. . .] And that's the difference between me and you, boy; that make me the educated one, and you the gump. I know my people. I know what they gone through. I know they done cheated themself, lied to themself—hoping that one they all love and trust can come back and help relieve the pain." (27.120)

In this moment the Reverend really opens up and lets us see what's behind his faith. He is far from being a simple man who believes without ever thinking. He has thought long and hard about the role religion plays in his people's lives, and he has decided that, even if he has to lie, the comfort people get from these lies is worth it.

Given the importance that people like Tante Lou and Miss Emma place on religion, the Reverend is an important piece of the novel because he is (in their community, at any rate) the living, breathing representative of that religion. Their religion gives them hope, but it is through their relationship with the Reverend that they can really hang onto that hope.

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