A Lesson Before Dying Chapter 12

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 12 of ''A Lesson Before Dying'', Grant heads off to have a few beers and clear his mind. He hears a thought-provoking conversation at the bar. In this lesson we will take a look at what is going on inside Grant's mind.

White Lies

If you have ever struggled with whether or not to tell a lie in order to protect someone's feelings, you can probably relate to Grant in Chapter 12 of A Lesson Before Dying. Grant has just returned from visiting Jefferson in his jail cell. Jefferson isn't doing so well. He gave up on life and called himself a hog. Now Grant has to decide what kind of lie he is going to tell Jefferson's grandmother. He can't tell her the truth because that would hurt her too much. As Grant grapples with this decision, he heads to the the Rainbow Club to have a drink.

Jackie Jackie Jackie

When Grant gets to the club, he orders a beer and sits by himself. There are two other men in the bar in addition to the bar owner. The men stand around talking about Jackie Robinson ( The first African American to play in the Major Leagues). Grant listens to the men and observes that they do not mention anything about the Brooklyn Dodgers, ''Only Jackie. Jackie this and Jackie that.'' Grant remembers that before Jackie, everyone talked about Joe Louis - an African American boxer.

Grant describes how everyone he knew rooted for Joe Louis to win when he fought his opponent, Schmeling. After Joe Louis lost, everyone was in mourning. There was a rematch, and Louis won. Grant tells us , ''For days after that fight, for weeks, we held our heads higher than any people on earth had ever done for any reason'' With this story, Grant makes it clear how important it is for the black community to have someone to believe in. Jackie Robinson is the new hero, but it used to be Joe Louis.


Grant orders another beer and shifts his focus to more pleasant thoughts; his girlfriend, Vivian. He fantasizes about how great it would be if they could just get away. When he finishes his beer, he goes to go see Vivian at the school where she teaches. On the way, he runs into a friend named Peggy who invites him and Vivian out to drink. When Grant gets to Vivian's room he tries to convince her to run away to New Orleans, but she says she can't because of her kids. Vivian is married but separated and very worried that her soon to be ex husband would use any excuse possible to take her kids away from her.

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