The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman

Ernest J. Gaines
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Important Quotes Explained

Quotes Important Quotes Explained

That's man's way. To prove something. Day in, day out he must prove he is a man. Poor Fool.

Madame Gautier makes this statement in the "Man's Way" section of Book II. Miss Jane Pittman has come to talk to her about Joe, whom Jane feels will soon die on a horse. Madame Gautier's quote reinforces the theme of man's desire to conquer other creatures. Joe Pittman needs to break horses because he has no other outlet to express his masculinity. In a culture that demands subservience by black men, Joe never can be recognized as an equal of whites. It is only as a capable breaker of horses, and Joe is actually the best on his ranch, that the other men respect him for who he is. Joe's desire to define himself through his skill soon swells to a complete yearning for control. Although Joe has grown old and originally planned to retire with Jane and the money they have earned, he insists on working because of his desire to conquer. Although the black stallion will physically kill him, his never ending desire for conquest is what metaphorically does him in. Madame Gautier calls Joe's desire "man's way." In the novel, this desire can also be seen in the way that white men conquered slaves and blacks after slavery. Furthermore, it also reflects man's need to conquer nature, a theme that Gaines also briefly touches upon in the novel.