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The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman

Ernest J. Gaines

Book 3: The Plantation

Book 2: Reconstruction

Book 3: The Plantation, page 2

page 1 of 2

From Samson through Of Men and Rivers

Summary

Samson

After Ned's death, Jane wants to leave the area, but after speaking to some friends she decides to move onto the nearby Samson Plantation instead. With the move, she will be able to stay close to Ned's grave. Initially, Mr. Samson doubts Jane's work ability because of her advanced age, but she talks her way in. Jane works in the plantation fields. She tells one story about the best worker in the field named Harriet Black, a dark slow-witted woman usually referred to as "Black Harriet." One day, a new girl named Katie finally sets up a race between her and Harriet, after many challenges. The workers and the white overseer, Tom Joe, like the race because it makes their day more interesting. As Harriet races her way through the field, her work becomes less and less skilled, with her frequently leaving weeds and chopping cotton. After Tom Joe sees her errors, she ignores him, and then Tom Joe starts beating her. The other women physically protect Harriet, and a large fight breaks out. At the end of it, Harriet has gone somewhat crazy and is taken away to a mental hospital that night. Several of the women from the fight and the new girl Katie are fired, but nothing happens to Tom Joe.

The Travels of Miss Jane Pittman

Miss Jane eventually decides to join the church. After attending for a while, Jane still does not feel the Lord within her but finally one day she feels that she has acquired religion. In her vision, Jane is traveling with a large sack on her shoulders when she meets someone who appears to be God. He suggests that she should cross the nearby river to get rid of her heavy load. The terrain grows more physically challenging as she walks, and a white man appears and offers to take her sack. Jane declines his offer. The man transforms into Ned, then Joe Pittman, and finally Albert Cluveau, all of whom ask for the sack. Jane will not yield, however, and makes it across the river. Upon reaching the other side, she sees the savior. Her heart suddenly feels light and good. She has found religion.

Two Brothers of the South

The owner of the plantation, Robert Samson, has two sons: one white, Tee Bob, and one black, Timmy. Timmy's mother, Verda, lives on the plantation, and Robert Samson used to ride on his horse to see her. Everyone in the plantation knows that Timmy is Robert's son. Although Timmy is black, he has inherited more of Robert's traits than Tee Bob, who is white. Timmy looks just like Robert and has the same sassiness and recklessness, while Tee Bob is more fragile and polite. Timmy is about six years older than Tee Bob, but even as children the two boys spend their time together. Robert and Miss Amma Dean try to impose a racial order on them, so that Timmy always is supposed to ride his horse behind Tee Bob's pony. Jane now works in the Big House, because Tee Bob wanted her there as his old black nanny recently died. Sometimes she rides a pony with them. One day, the boys trick Jane into riding an unbroken horse. The horse takes off, and Jane gallops around the plantation before the horse stops. Miss Amma Dean wants Timmy punished for this trick, but Robert Samson just laughs when he hears of it. Sometime later, Tom Joe severely beats Timmy up because he feels that Timmy has attitude inappropriate for a black man. After Timmy recovers, and Robert Samson sends him away with some money but does nothing to Tom Joe. Samson feels that Timmy needs to know his place as a black man, which is always below a white man, no matter who Timmy's father is. Tee Bob, however, cannot understand why his brother and best friend is sent away because a white man beat him. Jane reports that Tee Bob apparently will never understand the reason because he will kill himself before he finds out.

Of Men and Rivers

Timmy leaves the plantation in 1925 or 1926. In 1927, a huge flood overtakes the area breaking down Ned's schoolhouse and overturning the levee. Jane contemplates the way that white men have tried to conquer nature, unlike the Indians beforehand and suggests that the big flood shows that nature will always win.

Analysis

With the beginning of the third section of the novel, Jane moves back to a plantation, the third and final one of the book. This book differs from the others in that Jane does not move at all through the duration. Her narrative shifts from describing her own personal adventures to detailing the social circumstances of her environment.

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