A Lesson Before Dying

What are some surprising things the reader learns from reading Jefferson's thoughts?

Located in chapter 29

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Chapter 29 consists of “Jefferson’s Diary,” which is written in very flawed English and evokes the “stream-of-consciousness” technique. The diary, addressed to Grant, begins by recording Jefferson’s mundane daily routine, but quickly reveals sophisticated musings about whether God prefers white people to African-Americans. The diary also contains vignettes from Jefferson’s past, including one about a worker who blasphemes God when he gets drunk, and another about Jefferson being forced to work long hours in the fields starting at age six. The first section of the diary ends with an aside from Jefferson to Grant, revealing that Grant wants Jefferson to write down deeper thoughts and feelings than what he has so far. 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.