Study Guide

A Lesson Before Dying Chapter 23

By Ernest J. Gaines

Chapter 23

  • The next Monday Miss Emma, Tante Lou, and Reverend Ambrose visit Jefferson. It turns out he was a fanatic for the radio, and played it 24/7.
  • Unfortunately, he's so crazy for his radio that he refuses to leave his cell and visit his aunt, who has set up a very nice table for him. So she gathers everything up and takes it on up to his cell.
  • When Deputy Paul comes at the end of the visit the radio is off and Jefferson is ignoring his visitors. As soon as they leave he turns it back on.
  • The sheriff can tell something is fishy and threatens to take away the radio if it's causing any trouble. Miss Emma says that they'll work it out.
  • And, boy, do they! It's an ambush when Grant gets out of school that day. His aunt and the Reverend lay into him for giving Jefferson a "sin box", and say that the boy needs God, not a radio.
  • Grant says that on Friday, when they talked about ice cream and the radio, it was the first time that Jefferson didn't have hate in his eyes.
  • His aunt doesn't care, because she's worried about Jefferson's soul more than radios and ice cream.
  • They leave it at a stalemate.
  • On Wednesday Grant goes back to Jefferson, and brings him a bunch of pecans and roasted peanuts that the schoolchildren had brought in for him. He also picks up candy and comic books.
  • Grant asks Jefferson to please meet his godmother in the dayroom when she comes next time, because it hurt her that he wouldn't leave his cell. He also convinces him to let Reverend Ambrose talk to him.
  • Then Grant gets an idea. He offers to bring Jefferson a notebook and a pencil so he can write down his thoughts, and then they can talk about them when he visits.
  • At the end of the visit Jefferson tells Grant to thank the children for the pecans, which is a huge breakthrough. Grant is ready to dance a jig he's so happy, and they shake hands, also a big deal.