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Freshman Summer Success Program

Common Reader

A Lesson Before Dying

Ernest J. Gaines; "A Lesson Before Dying" NovelA Lesson Before Dying is set in a small Cajun community in the late 1940's. Jefferson, a young black man, is an unwitting party to a liquor store shootout in which three men are killed; the only survivor, he is convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Grant Wiggins, who left his hometown for the university, has returned to the plantation school to teach. As he struggles with his decision whether to stay or escape to another state, his aunt and Jefferson's godmother persuade him to visit Jefferson in his cell and impart his learning and his pride to Jefferson before his death. In the end, the two men forge a bond as they both come to understand the simple heroism of resisting-and defying-the expected.

The First-Year Common Reading Program is an essential part of your First-Year Experience at the University of Houston-Downtown.

This year all incoming freshmen are required to read Ernest J. Gaines's A Less Before Dying, write a 500-word essay due August 15, and attend UHD’s Freshman Convocation Saturday, August 23.

Adobe PDF iconA Lesson Before Dying Topics


Winner of National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction.

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Last updated or reviewed on 7/2/14

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