A Lesson Before Dying


in chapter 31

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The barrier of race has been broken.

On the day of Jefferson's execution, Grant cannot bring himself to watch Jefferson die, so he hears the details of the event from Paul, a sympathetic white deputy, who explains, "He [Jefferson] was the strongest man in that crowded room" (253). When Paul attempts to congratulate Grant on his success with Jefferson, Grant denies his role in Jefferson's transformation; Grant denies Paul's comment that he is a great teacher. Grant's failure to accept Paul's statements as truth reveals Grant's transformation into a selfless, compassionate, and optimistic man. Grant realizes he has made mistakes and does not desire to be esteemed higher than he believes he deserves. Paul expresses his desire to befriend Grant, thus breaking the barriers of race and reaching out to Grant. Grant returns to his classroom, crying, a changed man.