Study Guide

A Lesson Before Dying Poverty

By Ernest J. Gaines

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It's a hard-knock life for the characters in A Lesson Before Dying. Most of them are barely scraping by, working long days in the fields and living without luxury. What makes it even harder to swallow is the fact that they're all working on a plantation owned by a very rich man, and that they don't see any way off the track they're on. Like most things in the novel, having money, or not, is often determined by race.

Questions About Poverty

  1. Why do you think that Grant, who is a teacher, has no money to buy the radio but the Claibornes do? How does he see that as reflecting on his entire community?
  2. How does the lack of money play a role in Jefferson's arrest and sentencing?
  3. What does Grant think of Dr. Joseph's health advice to the students and how does it relate to poverty?

Chew on This

It is impossible to separate poverty from the other circumstances causing the difficult situations on the plantation, like racism, gender inequality, and lack of education.

Even if the characters in the novel were not impoverished, they would still suffer because of the history of their community.

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