A Lesson Before Dying Chapter 17

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 17 of 'A Lesson Before Dying,' Grant has a change of heart about his visits to Jefferson. In this lesson, we will take a look at some of the important events and find out if Grant's kindness has any effect on Jefferson.

Change of Heart

If you have ever been in a situation where you believed that someone should have been punished but knew they wouldn't be, you can probably relate to Grant in Chapter 17 of A Lesson Before Dying. The chapter starts with Grant admitting that he has had a change of heart. Grant is not sure if this change is due to the Christmas spirit or if it was because he couldn't stay angry for long. Regardless, he knows that his feelings about Jefferson have softened. Jefferson, however, is desperate and angry and makes an extremely offensive comment about Grant's girlfriend.

Jefferson's Life in Jail

It is time for Grant to visit Jefferson at the jail again. This time, Grant asks one of the younger deputies about Jefferson. He asks if the other prisoners treat him okay and whether or not he ever eats the food that Miss Emma brings. The other prisoners are curious about him, but they treat him okay, and Jefferson eats some of the food.

The deputy tells Grant that he does not plan on getting too close to Jefferson because he is going to be executed. The deputy (whose name is Paul) says that the best he can do is be polite and treat Jefferson well, that's it.

Grant asks Paul to describe a day in the life of a prisoner, and he tells him that the prisoners get one shower and one hour of exercise in the dayroom per week. They also get one hot meal and one sandwich per day. Paul says that he has never heard Jefferson speak to the other prisoners.

Jefferson's Attitude Turns Dark

When Grant enters Jefferson's cell, he asks him if he is hungry. Jefferson seems a little more open and tells Grant that the other prisoners can have the food if they want it. Grant tells Jefferson that Miss Emma went home crying after her last visit, and Jefferson has the power to stop that from happening again.

Jefferson insists that there is no point in doing anything for anyone since he is going to die. Grant tries to reason with him and tell him that anyone could die at any moment, and the best idea is to live as well as you can everyday. Jefferson tells Grant that he is ''vexing'' him and if he keeps vexing him, he is going to say something rude, which he does. Jefferson, speaking about Vivian, says ''Her old pussy ain't no good.''

At first, Grant thinks about punching him. He knows that if this had been any other situation, he would have ''let him have it.'' Instead, Grant calms down and tells Jefferson that Vivian is the reason why he is there in jail cell. ''That lady you spoke of, boy, cares a lot about you,'' Grant explains. Jefferson tells him that manners are for the living. Then, he knocks the food onto the floor and says that food is for the living, too.

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