The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman

Ernest J. Gaines
Summary

Book 4: The Quarters

Summary Book 4: The Quarters

The people of the community react in fear when Jimmy wants to take action in Bayonne. Jimmy knows that Jane is a respected elder in the community, effectively the community mother, therefore he approaches her, and she agrees to help. Jane is very old now, older than one hundred years. She still is spunky however and frequently gets in rather comical fights with other church members when defending her desire to listen to baseball or defending Jimmy's ideas. Jane is the only older resident who does not show fear in being thrown off the Samson plantation. Her fearlessness is not really surprising given the fact that it long has surfaced in her many adventures.

Jimmy's attempts to mobilize the community should be considered in light of Ned Douglass's similar attempts approximately fifty years ago. During both periods, the communities feared social action. During Ned's era, no one ever helped him even though they all came together to idolize him at his death. Initially, the elders at the Samson Plantation feel equally fearful, but a great deal of them do mobilize, even though some like Brady remain too scared to partake. When Jane sees the amount of people who come, she feels so proud that she wants to cry. Her pride is a result of an understanding that these people have overcome their fear and are finally willing to take a stand, perhaps the last one of their elderly lives. It is the change in the community's involvement that marks the difference between Ned and Jimmy's time. Jimmy's community will continue on the march, led in part by Jane, whereas Ned's movement died with his death. Even though he has died, Jimmy has truly become a martyr because even with his death, he has saved people from their fear and given them the opportunity to finally prove themselves.

In the last few sentences of the novel, Jane proves her obstinacy and courage once more. It is she who gets the people to head to town despite the death of Jimmy. Robert Samson gives her a low stare as she does this, but she simply remarks that she stared back at "Robert" and then walked by him. Jane's use of the term "Robert" instead of the more socially appropriate "Mr. Samson" once again shows the way that Jane uses names to reflect her changing ideas on social hierarchies. Soon after the novel opened, Jane insisted that she was "Miss Jane Brown" instead of Ticey. Now as the novel closes, she calls Mr. Samson "Robert", a mode of address that signifies equality and not subservience. In the end, both Jane and Samson stand upon equal ground with one another. As she moves by him, it is clear that Samson's position no longer threatens her in any way.