Study Guide

A Lesson Before Dying Education

By Ernest J. Gaines

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A Lesson Before Dying's narrator and protagonist is a teacher, so you shouldn't be too surprised that education is an important theme in the novel. It might not be exactly what you expect though; the teacher has lost his spark and isn't so sure that what he's doing is making a difference at all. He watches his students, in an impoverished country school for black children, escape to the cities, end up in jail, or die in violent fights, and wonders whether his efforts are worth it.

Questions About Education

  1. Do you think that Grant changes his mind about education's potential for helping people through the course of the novel? Why or why not?
  2. Are religious and secular education at odds with one another in the novel? How so? Is there any evidence that they can be reconciled?
  3. Why do you think that Grant continues to teach if he is so frustrated with it?

Chew on This

Vivian is right when she tells Grant that he stays because he loves his people.

Grant should run to California because all of the evidence in the novel shows that his hard work is useless in Louisiana.

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