Chapters 29 and 30 constitute the two instances in which material is presented from points of view other than Grant's. Why does Gaines move away from Grant's point of view in these two penultimate chapters?
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In the final section of the novel, Gaines employs several unconventional narrative techniques to convey the drama of Jefferson’s death. In Chapters 29 and 30, Gaines focuses on the eve of the execution, describing the nights of Jefferson, Grant, Reverend Ambrose, Tante Lou, and Sheriff Guidry. Jefferson’s experiences receive the most attention, and Gaines abandons Grant’s first-person narration in favor of Jefferson’s diary.
This dramatic shift in style emphasizes the differences between the narrative voices of Grant and Jefferson, and the convict’s lack of education is thrown into relief when contrasted with Grant’s articulate, measured narration. The misspellings and lack of punctuation in Jefferson’s section evoke Faulkner’s use of stream of consciousness, especially in Benjy’s section of The Sound and the Fury. In both novels, the raw, visceral experiences of an innocent are used to depict the evils of the wider world. In Gaines and Faulkner, the reader is expected to make inferences based on information that the narrator himself does not understand—for example, readers will know the significance of Mr. Morgan’s bet even though Jefferson does not.
In Chapter 30, Gaines again departs from narrating the novel from Grant’s perspective. Instead, he describes, in third person, the experiences of various people from the quarter on the day of Jefferson’s execution. These characters do not appear elsewhere in the novel, and it is unclear how Grant would know what they were doing on the day of the execution. By focusing on characters outside of Grant and Jefferson’s inner circles, Gaines reveals the importance Jefferson has assumed as a public figure and as a hero to his former peers.
By refraining from directly describing Jefferson’s death, Gaines increases the drama and power of the moment while also implicating the reader in Grant’s cowardice. Grant expresses regret and shame that he was unable to walk with Jefferson to the electric chair, admitting that despite his pride, it turned out that Reverend Ambrose was actually stronger than him. By concealing the moment from the reader and instead depicting the reactions of the townspeople, Gaines places the reader in the same position as Grant, unable to achieve the closure that would come with directly “witnessing” the execution. This lack of closure reflects the experience for Jefferson’s family and friends, who will never fully heal, as well as the lack of closure for the real people that went through similar situations.