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The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman

Ernest J. Gaines

Book 4: The Quarters

Book 3: The Plantation

Book 4: The Quarters, page 2

page 1 of 2

Part 1

Summary

Jane opens the final section of the novel with a theoretical discussion about how people have always been searching for "the One" who will save them. This search existed even in the times of the Old and New Testament. The elders on the Samson Plantation search for the "One" with each new child who is born. Finally, they believe that a boy named Jimmy Aaron might be the "One." Jimmy was born to Shirley Aaron, although the identity of his father is not known. When Shirley Aaron moves to New Orleans in search of work, Jimmy's great aunt Lena raises him with help from some of the elders, including Jane.

Jane wanted to move back to "the quarters," where the other blacks live, after Tee Bob's death, but she stayed in the house because Mr. Samson wanted her to be with Miss Amma Dean. After five years, she requested to move again. Although Miss Amma Dean and Robert want her to stay, mostly they say because of her health, she insists upon leaving so that she can have her own place. She moves back sometime in the 1940s.

Because Jimmy appears to be the One, the community pays special attention to him. By the time he is nine, he can read better than anyone except the schoolteacher. As a result, Jimmy often reads the paper to the old people, like Jane, and also writes their letters. Jimmy is especially talented with words and always seems to express things perfectly. When he reads the paper, he shows that he is gifted in making people happy as well. Jackie Robinson recently has been inspiring blacks all over, especially Jane who loves baseball, so Jimmy will often lie slightly if Jackie did not have such a great game in order to make everyone feel better. Jane also has recently acquired a radio on which she listens to the baseball games and philosophizes on the importance of Jackie Robinson and also Joe Louis who came before, because they inspired their people by their bravery and defeat of white men.

Occasionally Jimmy gets into trouble especially as he reaches puberty and wants to fool around with girls. The elders strictly punish him for minor infractions, because they want him to stay on the right path, since he is the "One." They also want Jimmy to be involved in the church, but he is not very devout. Jimmy always attends church, but he lacks fervency. Furthermore, although some other children his age have been transformed, Jimmy does not seem to have "gotten religion." One day however, Jimmy finally tells Jane that he thinks that he has found God. During the next Sunday at church, he explains his vision to everyone. The elders are elated that Jimmy, the One, has found God, and they want him to become a preacher. Jimmy does not want to become a preacher however and although he attends church, he never preaches. The old people do not entirely understand this as they assumed that "the One" would become a preacher.

The plantation has changed since Tee Bob's death, as Robert Samson has leased his land mostly to Cajuns. The Cajuns brought in tractors for farming and reduced the need for black labor. As a result, most of the adult population has left the plantation with only the elderly and children remaining. Many of the houses have become decayed and abandoned, and the plantation lacks some of the life from its earlier days.

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