Grant goes to Miss Emma’s house shortly after he sends his students home. There, Emma confronts him, insisting that Grant didn’t tell her the truth about Jefferson: he didn’t like the food or ask about Emma. Emma knows this because she had to hit Jefferson when she visited today. A few days later, Grant overhears his aunt telling Miss Eloise what happened: Jefferson pretended to be asleep when Emma arrived, and when she showed him the food she brought him, he asked if she had corn, the proper food for a hog. Even when Emma showed Jefferson that she brought him clothing and fried chicken, Jefferson continued to call himself a hog, until Emma became so upset that she slapped him.
Emma didn’t fully believe Grant’s lie at the time, and now she knows for a fact that it was false. This reinforces how self-serving the lie was to begin with: Grant lied to Emma about Jefferson to avoid a confrontation, not to make Emma feel any better. Now, Grant is having the confrontation he was trying to avoid, except that it’s much worse than it would have been. Meanwhile, we’re halfway through this novel, and still Jefferson shows little to no signs of improving: it’s unclear what’s going to happen to him.
Summary: Chapter 16
On Monday, Grant sees Tante Lou, Reverend Ambrose, and Miss Emma returning from visiting Jefferson. They stop at Miss Emma’s house and go inside. In school, Grant finds his students planning for the annual Christmas program. He reminds them to keep just one person in mind this Christmas season, referring to Jefferson.
At her request, Grant visits Miss Emma. Miss Emma knows Grant lied about his previous visit to Jefferson, because her own visit was disturbing: Jefferson asked her if she had any “corn for a hog,” asking viciously and repeatedly until Miss Emma grew so distressed that she slapped him. Grant is irritated, feeling once again that he cannot help Jefferson and stating that he will not let Jefferson make him feel guilty. Tante Lou insists that Grant continue his visits.
Summary: Chapter 17
Over the course of the week, Grant feels his anger dissipating. He reflects on the fact that he never stays angry for a long time, although he never believes in anything for very long either.
On Friday, when Grant enters Jefferson’s cell, he has no idea how to help Jefferson. He tries talking about Miss Emma and the pain Jefferson causes her. Jefferson says that Grant wouldn’t be talking about love and compassion if Grant sat on death row. Jefferson says he never asked to be born. Saying that Grant’s visits anger him, Jefferson threatens to scream and cause a ruckus. Grant thinks that despite Jefferson’s angry words, his eyes indicate that he needs Grant. Jefferson says only the living need to have good manners; then he throws his food on the floor.
At Guidry’s request, Grant enters his office and stands for a few minutes, waiting as the sheriff talks on the phone. When Guidry finally hangs up, he asks Grant whether or not he sees an improvement in Jefferson, and Grant answers sincerely that he does not. Guidry is angry, and Grant finds out later that his anger stems from a visit Miss Emma paid to Mrs. Guidry, during which she asked if she could meet with Jefferson in the dayroom or in some other large room so that she could sit down. Grant denies Guidry’s accusation that Grant encouraged Miss Emma to make the request. Guidry asks Clark and a “fat man” named Frank what he should do. Clark declares that Jefferson should remain in his cell, Frank declines to answer, and Guidry decides to ask Jefferson what he would prefer. Still, Guidry says, even if Jefferson gets to go to the dayroom, he will have to be in shackles.
Summary: Chapter 18
As promised, Guidry asks Jefferson if he would like to meet his visitors in the dayroom, and he says he would. When Miss Emma, Tante Lou, and Reverend Ambrose visit Jefferson in the day room, Jefferson’s arms and legs are shackled. He sits down at the table and Miss Emma tries to feed him, but he refuses to eat.