Essays and Criticism (Novels for Students)
From Jackie Robinson to Marie Laveau to nature, all the elements of Jane's narrative show her life to be a microcosm of the vast panorama of African-American culture—its people, its history, its myth, its vision. She is a personified archive that in the first two books of her narrative records the African-American past and her place in it, and in the third provides an insightful commentary on African-American and larger American society. The fourth and last book of her autobiography, "The Quarters," is not so much a record of the past as a blueprint for the future. Its immediacy is represented through the lack of section titles that divide the other books of the work. Previously, titles set the parameters of Jane's memory, naming the experience she is narrating in terms of an event ("Freedom"), a philosophy ("Man's Way"), a vision ("The Chariot of Hell"), or a person ("Miss Lilly"). Such naming cannot be made for the action in "The Quarters," for it is not as far removed from Jane's present as the other sections, and as such, lacks the distance needed to construct a clear defining perspective. The section leaves the reader feeling that it will be the task of another oral historian to look back on its events from the vantage point of the future and give names to those sections which represent Jane's immediate past.
As Jane's autobiography comes forward in time and prepares to address issues that will reverberate in the future, a theme that Gaines will...
(The entire section is 1657 words.)
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