Analyse littéraire : a lesson before dying

Pages: 6 (1429 mots) Publié le: 8 août 2010
EXTRACT 6 THE ELECTRIC CHAIR Chapter 30 from p.239’Melvina was sweeping off…’ down to p.241’ she
Felt sick already’.


1On the morning before Jefferson’s execution, a black truck with a gray tarpaulin cover drives into town. The townspeople are all struck by this strange truck which parks by the courthouse.
The night before, Grant and Vivian drink at theRainbow Club but find they cannot talk. Grant goes
Home slightly drunk wishing he could sleep but not dream. Reverend Ambrose does not sleep, he gets up early and prays for strength during the hours ahead. The sheriff too wakes early as he needs to be at the courthouse.P.239, we learn that the execution is to take place in the storeroom on the bottom floor in the back of the courthouse.

2 Theelectric chair is the major character as all the actions focus on its arrival. This anticipates Jefferson’s execution. Tension and emotion rise up as we realize the horror of Capital Death.

3 It takes place early in the morning ( at about 8 a.m. ‘ lines 44-45 + 84-85’ ) before J’s execution which is to take place between midday and 3p.m.

4 It is set in Bayonne, near the courthouse whereJefferson is going to be electrocuted to death.

5 In this extract Grant is not the direct narrator ( l.24 )he may report what he has been told (l.32’ Melvina said ‘).It reminds us of the first chapter. Here we see the story through Melvina’s eyes ( l.3’ she saw’ )and Juanita’s ( l.12).We have access to Melvina’s feelings : lines 14-15,24
Then the next paragraph is told from Fee Jinkins’s point ofview : line 46 ‘ he saw’ and line 54’ he could hear’


The two women present are Melvina Jack and Juanita deJean. They work at Edwin’s department store ( where Grant bought a radio set).They must be clerks or saleswomen(l .5)Juanita is white whereas Melvina is black ( lines 33-34).Juanita’s position ( work ) in the store is higher thanMelvina’s (lines 33-34).At the beginning, Melvina is sweeping off the sidewalk outside the store when she first sees the truck arrive.

3 All the men who are present are responsible for the unloading of the electric chair: the truck driver and 4 men lines :20+ 26.They have to unload the chair and carry it into the basement storeroom which will be the execution chamber room. The other 2 men who parktheir car ( l.10) in the official parking place (l.9 ) must be official people ( dressed in suits ) coming for the execution p. 243 we’ll learn later that the man with the cowboy hat is Henry Vincent , the executioner.

a) The two women are so struck by the strangeness of what is going on that the word ‘truck’ is repeated twelve times ( l.2+3+6+1+16+18+19+21+25+29+32+35 )Thisrepetition conveys a
sense of mystery as well their amazement at seeing this impressive unknown truck.

b) The two women are puzzled. They do not know which truck it is / what is going on../ why it has parked next to the courthouse. It is certainly the first that they have seen such a truck. It looks too weird for them to identify it properly.
c) They watch the scene until Melvinasuddenly realizes what the truck has come for.(l.14-15)
She is so shocked that she is unable to utter the words ‘ electric chair’ or ‘execution’
We understands it only because her heart starts beating very fast.

d) The truck looks mysterious or uncommon with its tarpaulin cover hiding what it actually contains,
That is to say : (l.22-24) a wooden chair with a high back and leather straps totie the condemned person/ in order to make sure that he won’t move.
There is also ‘a machine-looking thing’ which is the generator which will enable the electric current to kill Jefferson.

( l.14 + l.24) On realizing the actual purpose of the truck and after seeing the electric chair, Melvina cannot help feeling horrified. She even feels like fainting.( faint = s’évanouir )
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