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A Lesson Before Dying Study Guide Student Name: Swallowing Your Pride Have you ever had to swallow your pride? Done something that you really did not want to do? Helped someone you loved only because they asked you to do so? If so, then you will understand how Grant Wiggins feels in Ernest J. Gaines’s A Lesson Before Dying . During the course of the novel, Grant must overcome his own reservations to assist his aunt and godmother with an emotionally wrenching task they have given him. Be a Better Reader As you work through the study guide for A Lesson Before Dying , you will also practice these skills, which will help you when you read novels in the future, for school assignments or just for fun. 1. Describe the development of the main character. 2. Discuss how the plot develops throughout the novel. 3. Describe themes in the novel and trace their development throughout the text. 4. Cite textual evidence to support discussion of the novel. 5. Discuss how point of view affects the content of the novel. Behind the Scenes When writing A Lesson Before Dying , Ernest J. Gaines drew on his childhood spent on a Louisiana plantation in the 1930s where he was raised by his aunt who had no legs but still managed to care for her family. At the age of 30, Gaines published his first novel, Catherine Carmier , which was followed by five other novels including The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman , a work which follows the rise of the black militancy of the 1960s. Gaines’s 1993 A Lesson Before Dying brought more critical acclaim including winning the National Book Critics Circle Award and being nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. When writing the novel, Gaines drew on African-American history of the 1940s in which unequal legal standards, segregation, and deplorable living conditions existed for blacks living in the South.

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