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The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman

Ernest J. Gaines
Main Ideas

Key Facts

Main Ideas Key Facts

full title  The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman

author  Ernest J. Gaines

type of work  Novel

genre  African-American novel; Southern novel; American modern novel

language  English

time and place written  1967–1970, southwestern Louisiana

date of first publication  1971

publisher  Bantam Books

narrator  An implicit author, who collected the autobiography of Miss Jane, documents the introduction to the book. Miss Jane narrates the remainder of the book in the first person.

point of view  The two narrators generally alternate between the first and third person. They use the first person when describing their perceptions and personal actions. They use the third person when describing those around them.

tone  The schoolteacher's narrative uses formal English. Miss Jane describes her experiences in a southern dialect common to Louisiana.

tense  Past

setting (time)  From slavery through the 1960s

setting (place)  Different parts of Louisiana

protagonist  Miss Jane Pittman

major conflict  Attempt to establish racial equality in the south

rising action  Ned Douglass's attempt to organize a protest; Tee Bob's suicide; Jimmy Aaron's selection as "the One"

climax  Jimmy Aaron's murder before his organized political action

falling action  Jane Pittman leading the march, despite Jimmy's death.

themes  The legacy of slavery; manhood; class differences in race

motifs  Horses; slave narratives; names

symbols  The black stallion; Ned's flint; the river

foreshadowing  Joe Pittman's death; predictions of Ned's Death; Tee Bob's response to Timmy's departure; Tee Bob's punching of Jimmy Caya