Slavery, the civil rights movement and racial discrimination towards African Americans are just a few historical events that Miss Jane Pittman experiences in Ernest J. Gaines’ The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. The story of Miss Jane Pittman is truly an amazing one as she tells her life story and life changing events. This novel really allows us to see what life was like in the south during that time period. African Americans delt with so many things at time, especially an African American woman who went by the name Miss Jane Pittman.
The novel is based on Miss Pittman’s life both as a slave and a free woman after the Civil War. As a slave her slave name was Ticey. Her and all the other colored people meant nothing to the white people. All they did was work on the plantation all day and received barely nothing for all the work they did. Once slavery was over, and all the colored people were free Jane and some others decided to leave their quarters and head north. Finally she found a new place to stay where she could go to school and get an education. Unfortunately, the school closed later on, and she was unable to finish getting her education.
Since she didn’t have the proper education it was very difficult for her to get a job. The only place that she was able to work was on a plantation, and the pay on the plantations was extremely low. In each section of the book, it represents a new chapter in Miss Pittman’s life. She grew older, became wiser and more mature. In the section “The War Years”, it is all about Jane’s life as a child. It is about her life on the plantation, life as a free slave and life caring for Ned as they try to find a place to stay without getting killed.
In “Reconstruction”, it was all about how she delt with Ned leaving. She had been with Ned since he was a young boy and she cared for him like he was her own son. In “The Plantation”, she talks more about the people she has met along the way. She tells stories about Timmy, Tee Bob and Mary Agnes. In the last part “The Quarters”, Jane is still dealing with Ned’s death. She is suffering from depression and starts going to church with a friend. In this section we really see how much Jane has grown not just as a person but emotionally as well because of all that she has been through.
This novel has many references and symbols to the Christian Doctrine. One reference is when Jane thought that she had nothing to live for she started to go to church. One day while she was walking home she saw a white man with a beard and a long robe, and he asked her if she wanted to get the load off her shoulders. She said yes, but to do so she had to cross the river. She had many obstacles while crossing the river but she finally made it and from that day on she was saved. Her being saved relived her from all her pain. The lord gave her the power to continue to move forward on life.
Ned felt that he had to help others realize that all men are equal no matter what color skin they have. He says that segregation is ruining everything and everyone. He opened up a school to teach people about his beliefs, but the school eventually was shut down because of a flood after his death. Even after his death he had an impact on people’s lives. Soon later a boy named Jimmy came along and everyone believed that he was “The One”. Just like Ned, Jimmy had a way with words. Even though he wasn’t successful at convincing the elders to follow along with his beliefs he had an effect on many others.
He helped people protest the owner of the land so that they could make a change for the better. This novel really shows how big an issue race is. Your race determined how you were treated, how much you got paid, and so many other things. Over the years African Americans have suffered tremendously just because of the color of their skin. We still have a long way to go when it comes to getting rid of racism, but if our ancestors were here today they would be proud and happy just to see how far we have come.