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CHAPTER SYNOPSIS AND NOTES - A Lesson Before Dying
The next day was Sunday, and Grant stayed at home while Aunt Tante Lou left for church. When he returned from college he told her he didn’t believe in religion, and his Aunt had given up trying to force him to attend. Grant sat at his desk listening to songs echoing out of the church and trying to grade papers, but his mind drifted back to last night’s events. It was late when he returned from Bayonne, but his Aunt, Miss Emma, and Reverend Ambrose were sitting in the front room waiting for him. He reported his visit, telling small lies about Jefferson’s response to the food and clothing. Reverend Ambrose asked what Grant thought Jefferson felt deep inside of him, if he was pondering the more spiritual issues of life. But Grant replied he didn’t know anything about the soul, which was more a matter for the Reverend to pursue with Jefferson anyway. Grant felt the Reverend looked down on him because he was no longer a believer. The three of them announced they would visit Jefferson together and take him a Bible.
As he listened to the singing
coming from the church, Grant remembered when he had been there singing right
along with the choir. During college, he spent all his time studying and had not
had time for church. He didn’t enjoy upsetting his Aunt and thought about leaving
as Antoine had suggested, but he felt he couldn’t. He pushed away the papers and
listened to the singing. On Determination Sunday it could go for hours, there
was nothing he could do but sit there and endure it or else leave and go for a
walk. Outside he heard a car door shut and when he looked up he saw Vivian walking
toward the door.
Religion begins to play a larger role in the story. Grant is constantly stating that he knows nothing about the soul, or about how a man is supposed to live; yet he is determined not to investigate the one field that claims to have the answers. Instead, he seeks answers from an embittered former teacher who has nothing substantial to offer on this subject.
The ‘termination songs serve as a metaphor for his life. He has only two options, sit and listen to the song until church is out or leave the house to seek refuge elsewhere. Neither of these options seem suitable to him. In the same manner, he is unable to accept his life in his hometown, and unable to leave and go out to California to make a new life.
Vivian entered the house and announced she’d left the children with a babysitter. They sat and ate breakfast in the kitchen and then washed the dishes. Grant suggested they go for a walk, so they wandered out of the quarter and crossed the railroad tracks out into a sugarcane field. Grant cut a stalk and they ate sugarcane together. Later they sat under a big pecan tree eating pecans. They moved deep into the sugarcane field and made love on a blanket in between the rows. Afterward, they talked about the children they would have together and whether or not they wanted those children to grow up here.