A Lesson Before Dying Chapter 19

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 19 of 'A Lesson Before Dying', Grant and his students present their Christmas program. The program goes well, but Grant's mind is on something else by the end of the performance. In this lesson, we will take a look at the important events from Chapter 19.


It's the same thing, every year. If you have found yourself saying these words, you will understand how Grant feels in Chapter 19 of A Lesson Before Dying. In this chapter, Grant and his students put on a Christmas performance.

The Weather

Chapter 19 of A Lesson Before Dying opens with Grant describing what the weather is like in the days before Christmas. We get a vivid description as Grant tells us, ''You could see gray-blue smoke rising from the big chimneys in the fronts of the houses and from the smaller chimneys in the backs.'' Most of the people in the quarter where Grant lives stayed indoors and only came out of their homes to grab more firewood.

The Program

When the night of the Christmas program arrives, it is still raining, but people come anyway. Grant hints that the reason for all the interest is that the program is dedicated to Jefferson. People who do not go to church show up for the program. Everyone takes their seats as Grant gets the students ready behind the curtain, which was made from four bedsheets. Grant tells us that there are three white sheets and one gray sheet belonging to Miss Rita Lawrence.

When Grant peeks outside of the curtains to look at the audience, he sees that Rita Lawrence and her grandson, Bok, are sitting in the front row. Grant reveals that Bok was sent to a mental institution twice, but since he wasn't really dangerous, they sent him back to his grandmother's house. Bok has a strange love of marbles. Even now, Grant observes, as everyone gets ready for the play, Bok is playing with his marbles. Miss Emma and his aunt are also in the audience.

Before the play starts, Reverend Ambrose addresses the crowd and leads them in prayer. He asks God to be with everyone tonight. He especially asks God to be in the jail over in Bayonne. He doesn't say it directly, but that comment is meant for Jefferson, who is locked up in the cell in Bayonne. The Reverend then says that no matter how smart someone is, they are still ignorant if they don't have God. Since Grant does not believe in God, this comment is meant for him. Reverend Ambrose wraps up the prayer, and then the play starts.

One Present Under the Tree

The program goes well, and the audience enjoys it. Grant tells us that the children's singing was better than usual because the rain prevented them from working. Less work meant more time to practice. The Christmas tree is decorated and one lone gift sits under it. It is a wool sweater and wool socks that the children had pooled their money to buy. Everyone knows that the gift is for Jefferson, and this seems to have a sobering effect on the audience.

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