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The same pattern repeats for several more visits until Miss Emma, Tante Lou, and others ask the sheriff’s wife to persuade her husband to allow Jefferson’s visiting hours to occur in a dayroom rather than a cell.
Later, Grant is approached by Jefferson’s godmother, Miss Emma, who is a friend of his aunt, Tante Lou.
She wants Grant to help her teach Jefferson so that he may die with dignity, as a man rather than “a hog.” Although Grant hates the racism directed at the Black community, he initially refuses the request, believing that it is an impossible task.
However, when they visit him, they find him taciturn and withdrawn, and he remains this way for several more visits.
Things get worse when Grant goes to see Jefferson on his own.
The story takes place in the fictional town of Bayonne, Louisiana, and is narrated by Grant Wiggins, a Black teacher from the local plantation school.
It begins with Grant describing the trial of Jefferson, a simple, uneducated 21-year-old Black man wrongly charged with murdering a white store owner.Their relationship continues to grow and strengthen, especially when Grant gives Jefferson a radio to distract him and then a notebook in which to record his thoughts.When Grant visits him after this, he discovers that Jefferson has used the notebook to record his explanation of how men are different from hogs.A white deputy who had bonded with Jefferson informs Grant that the execution is over and offers Grant his friendship and Jefferson’s diary.In the story’s final moments, Grant informs his students that Jefferson is dead and, both grieving for his friend and recognizing the positive impact Jefferson’s dignified death has had on the Black and white communities alike, he begins to cry.Building up Jefferson’s dignity would require dismantling a lifetime of systematic racism that has shaped the man’s character.Despite his reservations, Tante Lou persuades Grant to help Miss Emma and they are eventually given permission to visit Jefferson in prison.As more and more members of the Black community come to visit Jefferson, he begins to truly appreciate the reality of what Grant has told him and the scale of what is at stake.He comes to accept that his execution will take on a significance far beyond that of any ordinary death.Through this increasingly strong connection, Grant is able to explain to Jefferson how significant his death will be for the whole Black community.He explains that when his defense attorney compared him to a hog, he insulted all Black people, drawing on a long history of white supremacist lies and propaganda.