The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman Essay
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The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman begins with a note from the editor, who is a local schoolteacher near the plantation where Jane Pittman lives. He has long been trying to hear her story, and, beginning in the summer of 1962, she finally tells it to him. When her memory lapses, her acquaintances help fill in the spaces. The recorded tale, with editing, then becomes The Autobiography of Miss Jane.
Jane Pittman is born into slavery on a plantation somewhere in Louisiana. Jane is called "Ticey" during her days as a slave and has no parents; her mother died as a result of a beating when Jane was a child, and Jane did not know her father. Until she is around nine, Jane works in the Big House caring for the white children. One…show more content…
Life on Mr. Bone's plantation initially is good with a colored schoolteacher and a political scene still monitored by Republicans from the north. Then the original owner of the plantation, Colonel Dye, buys it back (with money borrowed from Yankees). Life reverts back to almost how it was before slavery, with segregation and violence against blacks who step out of line. The blacks start fleeing north because of the worsening conditions. Initially the whites do not care, but soon they try to stop the flight. Ned, who is now almost seventeen, joins a committee that helps blacks leave. Colonel Dye warns Jane that Ned must stop, but when he will not, Ku Klux Klan members arrive at Jane's house. Ned is not home when they come and is able to flee the plantation later that night. Jane does not want to leave her secure life, so they separate with sadness. Ned goes to Kansas, gets an education, and eventually joins the U.S. Army to fight in Cuba. Jane soon marries Joe Pittman (without an official ceremony). Despite Colonel Dye's attempts to keep them, Joe and Jane soon move to a ranch near the Texas-Louisiana border where Joe has found a job breaking horses.
Joe and Jane live at the new ranch for many years, but as they age Jane becomes increasingly worried about Joe getting hurt in his work. One of her recurring dreams depicts him being thrown from a horse. Soon after, Jane sees a black stallion in a corral that is
Ernest Gaines won a Wallace Stegner Fellowship to attend a Stanford University writing program in 1958 and 1959. He received the Joseph Henry Jackson Literary Award in 1959, and he published two short-story collections between 1968 and 1971, the year The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman appeared. Many critics have praised the novel, and much has been written about it. The story is best known as a 1974 television film that starred Cicely Tyson in the role of Jane Pittman. The film won nine Emmy Awards, including awards for Tyson’s acting, John Korty’s direction, and Tracy Keenan Wynn’s screenplay.
This powerful novel did not arise without roots. Gaines had studied the fiction of Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner, and those writers acted as tutors for Gaines’s style, which lets the story tell itself and inhabit a local landscape of imagination. While Faulkner’s works seem most influential on Gaines, from love for a place in the South to preoccupations with memory and time, Faulkner’s vision was still a product of a white experience and was, from Gaines’s perspective, thus limited in what it could communicate of black life in America. It is reasonable to compare Faulkner’s character of Dilsey in The Sound and the Fury (1929) with Jane Pittman, because both are black women of the old South and both are powerful figures of virtue amid vicious brutality. Faulkner, however, does not allow his readers to identify with...
(The entire section is 452 words.)