The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman

by Ernest J. Gaines

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Book 1, Chapters 9-10 Summary

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Jane is tired of walking but is still determined to make it to Ohio. She and Ned are still walking through the swamps, and Jane must carry Ned much of the time because the water sometimes is as high as Jane’s waist. When they finally leave the swamp, the ground around them looks barren. There are no trees in sight, which means they will have no shade from the sun.

In the distance, Jane sees a small cabin and heads for it. When they get close, they see an old white man, who is not much taller than Jane is. The man sees how tired they are and offers them food. As Jane and Ned eat, the man answers Jane’s questions about where Ohio is. He points out where Louisiana is by going to a map that is tacked to the wall. He talks about things like latitude and longitude, but these things mean nothing to Jane. He shows her that Ohio is actually east of Louisiana, not north as Jane insists. Jane has trouble believing the man and asks him why she should she trust him. He tells her that she is asking a valid question but also asks why she should not trust him.

The man tells her that if she wants to get to Ohio, she will have to go through Mississippi. For some reason, Jane does not want to go through Mississippi. She would rather go through Arkansas, she tells the man. When she asks him how low her journey will take, the man creates a possible scenario for her. He says she might be able to walk five miles a day, but then he lists all the challenges she might face. Each challenge takes a mile or so off the distance she might cover until the man figures that at most she will walk only one mile each day. The man, who obviously is a good storyteller, also adds years to Jane’s journey by telling her that someone along the way will probably not know that slavery has ended and will take away her freedom, forcing her to work for him. The boy might get angry when someone mistreats Jane. Then they might have to run away so they are not put in jail. The man concludes his story by saying that it will take thirty or more years for Jane to make it to Ohio. With that big of a lapse of time, when (and if) she gets to Ohio and starts looking for her Mr. Brown, he probably will be dead.

After finishing the food the man has provided, Jane thanks the man and leaves. She has listened to his story but continues to believe that she will and must make it to Ohio, even if it takes her thirty years to do so.

Jane and Ned receive a ride in a cart pulled by two old mules. The driver’s name is Job. He offers to take Jane and Ned to his house. But when they arrive, Job’s wife is not very happy to see either her husband or the two children. Despite her constant complaining, Job lets Jane and Ned sleep in his barn. He brings them each a piece of cornbread to eat. In the morning, he tells them to get into the cart again because he is going to take them to another place where they can stay.

At a crossroads, Job tells Jane and Ned to follow the road until they reach a big, white house. As they walk in the direction Job has pointed out, Jane realizes she...

(This entire section contains 702 words.)

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has forgotten to thank Job for his help. But it is too late. Job is too far down the road.

At the white house, Jane meets the landowner, Mr. Bone. At first Mr. Bone wants nothing to do with them because they are so young and skinny. But Jane tells Mr. Bone that she is strong and can work as hard as any other woman out in the field. Mr. Bone gives in. Jane proves she is strong. She works so well that Mr. Bone eventually increases her wages. She and Ned stay there for several years.


Book 1, Chapters 7-8 Summary


Book 2, Chapters 1-3 Summary