Why I'm Not Finishing A Lesson Before Dying

My local library has chosen A Lesson Before Dying as the community book, and I picked up a copy immediately so I could be one of the first out of the chute in discussions.

Now I'm one of the first out of the book discussions.

Grant Wiggins is an angry man. He treats his aunt with visible contempt, and she returns the favor. He's angry at his students, over whom he exercises a ridiculous amount of control and lords his authority. He gets angry at them because he's angry, and he treats them bad enough to make them cry. The only person he doesn't seem to treat like dirt is his married girlfriend — but it's still early in the book.

I'm halfway through the book and I'm still not sure exactly why he's angry.

Oh, I get some of it. I understand why he's mad at the white people who lord their authority over him, and the subtle ways he exercises his rights (the right to correct grammar, the right to choose his humiliations). I understand why he tempers his anger at them, and how he tries to use them to get what he needs for school, for his aunt, for Miss Emma.

I understand why he's mad at the students, most of whom will either never leave this place or will die terrible, violent deaths because of who they are and the poor choices they will make. He sees himself in them, and he hates that he's back in the same school where his former teacher told him to get as educated as possible so he'd have a chance at a decent life. His cruelty to them, especially the youngest ones, is abhorrent, and I don't wish to suffer it any longer.

But his life is a mystery, teeming with anger, and it's a mystery that I'm not sympathetic enough to unravel and anger I'm not interested enough to suffer. Wikipedia notes that Grant's relationship with Jefferson breaks him out of his self-absorbing anger, but I can't suffer any more Grant.

If you have any insights that might make me want to start the book over, I'd be much obliged if you would share them. I will give it another fair shake if, like God, I find one reader who can give me good reason why I should continue.

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