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The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman

Ernest J. Gaines

Book 1: The War Years

Book 1: The War Years

Book 1: The War Years, page 2

page 1 of 2

From Hunter to Rednecks and Scalawags

Summary

Hunter

Jane and Ned are walking in the darkness and suddenly smell food cooking. They immediately freeze, but from the darkness a voice summons them. It is an old solitary black man who is cooking a rabbit on his fire. He cuts it up and gives them each one piece. The old man is heading south to try and find his father who was sold in Mississippi. When Jane explains that they are going to Ohio to find the Yankee soldier, Mr. Brown, the old man laughs. He tells her that she has barely gone anywhere and that they should just go back to their plantation because it is too far. Jane gets angry and tells him that she never wanted his rabbit anyhow. When he teases her and suggests that he should knock them out and drag them home, Jane wakes Ned and walks away with him in the darkness. Soon they come back quickly because of the cold, and the man jokingly asks them how Ohio was. Jane and Ned fall asleep, and when they wake, the hunter is gone.

An Old Man

Jane has to carry Ned and both of their bundles the next day since they are sloshing through the Louisiana swamps. After a long morning, Jane approaches a gray house by a field and finds an old white man on the front porch. He tells them that they are still in Louisiana, takes her inside, and gives her greens and cornbread. Over his fireplace is a large map of the states. He shows Jane how far Ohio is. Jane still insists on going and is sassy and obstinate. The man then humorously describes Jane's route, including the fact that she refuses to go to Mississippi and concludes that it will take them about thirty years to get there. Jane says that they better get started then, and she leaves with Ned. After this stop, she and Ned walk for about a week, and Jane says that what they encountered was similar to what they encountered before. Finally, they ask a white man with a wagon for a ride. It turns out that he is not exactly going their way, but she goes with him since she is exhausted and because Ned already has fallen asleep in his wagon. The man, whose name is Job, says that their fatigue was evident.

Rednecks and Scalawags

Job is a poor white man, but he takes Jane and Ned home. His wife is very displeased that he brought two "niggers" there and starts listing all the ways in which Job is not a true man: he did not fight in the war; he cannot make her have babies; their house is falling apart. Job lets Jane and Ned sleep in the empty food crib just outside the house and gives them some cornbread. Through the wall, Jane hears the wife hollering late into the night and reflects that many white women went slightly crazy during the war.

In the morning, Job puts Jane and Ned in his wagon and tells them they are going to Mr. Bone's. Some Confederate soldiers approach as they are riding, and Job explains that Jane and Ned belong to him. The soldiers let them go. Eventually, Job drops them at a house by a plantation and leaves. Jane is sent to talk to Mr. Bone, who runs the plantation. Mr. Bone first thinks that Jane is too small to work in the fields, but she convinces him otherwise. He agrees to pay her the reduced rate of six dollars a month, minus fifty cents for Ned's schooling. Jane is shown to her new cabin, small but clean with only two beds in it. She says that she will live there for ten years. After a month of working, Mr. Bone starts paying her ten dollars like the other women because her work is so good.

Analysis

This section is the final sequence of the "War Years" book of the novel. Jane and Ned continue their adventures by meeting up with three more significant people: a lone black hunter, a white poor farmer, and Job. These stops contain an increasingly comic touch as Jane's obstinacy about reaching Ohio grows increasingly ridiculous. The black hunter simply cannot believe that two children are wandering through the Louisiana swamp in search of Ohio. He is kind and shares his food with them, but Jane acts like the child that she is and argues about not wanting his food whenever he criticizes her plan. The black hunter has his own interesting story to tell, but it never is fully explained. He is heading south to find his father, who was sold in Mississippi. The hunter's stealth and knowledge of the world suggests that he may have been an escaped slave who has lived on his own for a while. The details of his life are unclear, but his interlude with Jane provides insight into the different types of journeys that other black people made after the emancipation.

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