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A Lesson Before Dying Chapter 4

Instructor: Bryan Cowing

Bryan is a freelance writer who specializes in literature. He has worked as an English instructor, editor and writer for the past 10 years.

In Chapter 4 of 'A Lesson Before Dying,' Grant seeks the comfort of his girlfriend. He tells her all about Jefferson and the burden he has been given. He hopes she will be the support he needs. Read on to find out if she is.

Eating Out

This chapter starts with Grant dropping his aunt off. She says she will be home soon to cook for him, but he tells her that he will eat out in town. This hurts her feelings, the narrator explains, because ''I was supposed to eat soon after she had cooked, and if I was not at home I was supposed to eat as soon as I came in.'' He heads off to the Rainbow Club to meet his girlfriend, Vivian Baptiste. As he drives, Grant thinks about all the school work he should be doing, but he knows he wouldn't have been able to focus after the visit he just had with Miss Emma and Henri Pichot.

Grant describes the town as he drives. Everything is segregated; schools, churches and clubs are all separated with the 'colored' facilities always being in the back of town. He goes to the Rainbow Club, where he sees the owner's car parked outside. Grant goes to the cafe and orders some shrimp before using the phone to call Vivian. He asks her to come to the cafe so they can talk. She tells him that she can't leave the kids alone and will have to get a babysitter first.

The Club

As Grant waits for Vivian, we get to hear a little about the club owner, Joe Claiborne. Joe's wife, Thelma, works in the cafe and has a mouth full of gold teeth. She also wears heavy perfume. Grant speculates that ''that's where most of their money went, on those gold teeth, that perfume, and payment on the new white Cadillac.'' But they are also good people, and in the past, if he was broke, he knew that he could get a meal and a drink at the cafe on credit.

Vivian

Next, Grant orders a drink and sits at the bar to wait for his girlfriend. When she arrives at the club, we learn that she is quite the head turner. Grant divulges that ''Vivian Baptiste was a beautiful woman, and she knew it; but she didn't flaunt it, it was just there.'' She sits down next to Grant and the two chat. Grant asks her to run away with him, but she tells him she can't because she has kids and a job. This is not the answer Grant is looking for, and he tells her ''I don't feel alive here.''

Vivian and Grant dance together, and he starts to feel a little better. Finally, he tells her what's bugging him; ''They gave him death,'' explains Grant. As it turns out, Grant and Vivian had talked about the case last weekend. He then explains that the boy's family wants Grant to make the boy a man before he dies. As the song finishes, Grant asks ''Who am I? God?'' as he thinks about the burden placed on his shoulders.

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