Study Guide

A Lesson Before Dying Chapter 19

By Ernest J. Gaines

Chapter 19

  • It gets cold and rainy, which means that nobody can get any work done in the two weeks before the Christmas program.
  • Almost the whole quarter (the name for the part of the plantation where Grant lives) comes to see the Christmas program.
  • Irene Cole, the sixth-grade teaching assistant, and Odessa Freeman, another student, help Grant to organize the show.
  • Reverend Ambrose starts things off with a prayer, which includes some pointed barbs directed at Grant for thinking he's too smart for religion, and then the children get to singing their Christmas songs.
  • The kids did find a pine tree this year, and under it is a gift: a wool sweater and socks paid for with money the kids earned by selling pecans. Everyone in the whole church knows who the gift is for, and it makes them uneasy. Grant doesn't come right out and say it, but we bet it's for Jefferson.
  • A mentally disabled boy, Bok, sits on the front row with his grandmother, and loves the program.
  • A little boy reads an essay about all the different Christmas trees the school has had every year, and how the little pine tree was the most beautiful.
  • Finally the children act out the Christmas story, with shepherds and wise men learning about the birth of Jesus by noticing an unusual star. It turns out to be a flashlight one kid is shining on the wall—that's show business!
  • Finally the girl playing Mary wraps things up by singing "Joy to the World" and everybody digs into the potluck refreshments.