Jane Brown is the name taken by a ten-year-old slave girl, Ticey, when a white Union soldier tells her she should not let herself be abused by her white slavemasters. After the soldier leaves, Ticey/Jane tries to assert her independence, and she is beaten for it. This beating destroys her ability to conceive children, and so her only motherhood is caring for Big Laura’s child, Ned, after Big Laura is killed while helping other slaves escape to the North. Jane learns early to repress the instinct for rebellion that she felt when she was Ticey. When Jane decides to live with the horse-breaker Joe Pittman, she takes his name as well, but she never marries and remains “Miss” for all her life.
Miss Jane Pittman is presented by the editor as a character speaking in her own voice. Because of her great age and infirmity, as well as her unpolished language, Jane’s narrative seems unlikely. The rationale for its style is that the editor is an educated schoolteacher who has smoothed out the illiteracies and oral characteristics of the original recitation. Nevertheless, some of her speaking voice is suggested by such expressions as “It might ’a’ been July, I’m not too sure, but it was July or August. Burning up.”
Although Jane tells her own story in her own words, edited as they are, her character is expressed more fully by the relationships she forms with the people in her life. Apart from Big Laura, there are men whose significance for Jane is slow to dawn in her moral development. After the first outburst of defiance that she shows as ten-year-old Ticey, Jane Pittman survives because she succeeds in repressing her passions...
(The entire section is 677 words.)