Study Guide

A Lesson Before Dying Chapter 29

By Ernest J. Gaines

Chapter 29

  • This chapter is all directly from Jefferson's diary, so it's a little bit hard to read. He doesn't know how to spell and apparently has something against punctuation, but if you read aloud it helps to figure out what's going on.
  • He writes as though it were a letter to Mr. Wiggins, his teacher. He talks about eating and looking at the sun. He also talks about his dreams where he's walking to a door and wakes up right before he gets there.
  • Miss Emma had brought Jefferson some Easter eggs and the Reverend tried to tell Jefferson about how the Lord died for him so he could go to heaven. It made Miss Emma cry, and she asked Jefferson to ask forgiveness for his sins.
  • Jefferson has a hard time sleeping and wonders why poor people who haven't done anything are the ones who have bad things happen to them.
  • He writes about how when he was a little boy he used to deliver the water and food to the people working in the fields. One of them, Boo, was always saying that the Lord was actually god to white people because he didn't take care of black people.
  • At one point Jefferson writes that he likes Mr. Wiggins, but that he doesn't know how to tell him because he's never said that before or had anyone say it to him.
  • Jefferson wants to see his godmother one more time before he dies, and he wonders if that's what love is, wanting to see somebody really badly.
  • The sheriff comes in and offers to sharpen Jefferson's pencil for him. He does it with a little pocketknife, and decides to give it to Jefferson.
  • Even the chief deputy, who's pretty much a grade-A jerk, tries to act nicely to Jefferson in his last days, but Jefferson sees right through him.
  • One day all the schoolchildren from the quarter come to visit Jefferson. His little cousin, the one who had cried in class, gives him a kiss. Then all the old people from the quarter come too and Bok gives him a marble.
  • After the visits Jefferson cries for the first time because of the marble Bok gave to him.
  • He doesn't want to sleep because he doesn't want to dream about the door.
  • Jefferson does get to say goodbye to his godmother. She kisses him for the first time in his life and they hold onto each other until it's time for their visit to end.
  • He writes down that he's sorry he cried when Mr. Wiggins said he wouldn't be back tomorrow and says that he's strong. He thanks Mr. Wiggins for making him think he's somebody.
  • Jefferson orders okra, rice, pork chops, cornbread, and clabber for his last meal, and his godmother cooks it for him.
  • The sheriff comes by and asks Jefferson to write down that he was good to him and that all the men treated him fairly.
  • His last lines are descriptions of the moonlight and the leaves outside of his cell window, and sentences about him being frightened and shaking.
  • He closes saying goodbye to Mr. Wiggins, that he's strong and he's a man and signs, "sincely jefferson" (29.41).
  • No, those are not tears in our eyes. We've been chopping onions, and we're allergic to, uh, air.