Study Guide

A Lesson Before Dying Chapter 7

By Ernest J. Gaines

Chapter 7

  • Before he visits Jefferson, Grant receives a visit from the superintendent of schools, Dr. Joseph Morgan. He gets time to practice before this intimidating visit, so he spends that week drilling the students in standing at attention and sitting down quietly.
  • When Dr. Joseph finally does show up he calls Grant "Higgins" instead of "Wiggins" and doesn't seem to care that he's got it wrong.
  • Dr. Joseph calls kids up one by one and checks their hands for cleanliness and tests them on school subjects.
  • At one point he starts inspecting the kids' teeth, which reminds Grant of a slave master or a cattleman. Checking out slaves' teeth (like you would a farm animal) was one of the demeaning habits of slave owners back in the day.
  • Finally Dr. Joseph gives the kids a lecture on hygiene, nutrition, and exercise, which sounds to Grant like a lesson on how to work in the fields.
  • On his way out, Dr. Joseph tells Grant that he's doing a good job. However, when Grant starts to tell him about how bad the materials are in his school—which are mostly ruined hand-me-downs from white schools—Dr. Joseph gets irritated.
  • He tells Grant that the kids could buy their own toothbrushes and such if they weren't so lazy. They could gather pecans and sell them. Right, because kids under the age of twelve should totally be working, Dr. Joseph. Idiot.
  • Then Dr. J takes off in a huff.