The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman Analysis

Ernest J. Gaines

Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Bryant plantation

Bryant plantation. Louisiana farm on which Jane Pittman is born into slavery with the name Ticey. There she spends the first ten years of her life. Things begin to change when the Civil War reaches the plantation—first when a Confederate army occupies it, then when a Union army arrives. Rejecting her slave identity by insisting that her name is Miss Jane Brown, Ticey is whipped and returned to field work.

After hearing about President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, the idealistic Jane expects to find freedom in the North and tries to make her way to Ohio with a younger boy, Ned. She and Ned struggle through swamps and farms burned and devastated by war. After thinking she has reached Ohio, she discovers the bitter truth that she is still in Louisiana.

Bone plantation

Bone plantation. Prosperous Louisiana plantation much like Bryant’s, where Jane lives in a sparsely furnished cabin for about ten or twelve years after she gives up on reaching Ohio. After she enjoys life in an environment safe from post-Civil War Reconstruciton violence and receives some education from an excellent schoolteacher, violence eventually reaches the plantation and her situation reverts to a condition resembling slavery.

Clyde farm

Clyde farm. Place on the Louisiana-Texas border that becomes Jane’s happiest home. There she lives for ten years with her common-law...

(The entire section is 440 words.)

Historical Context

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A Peaceful, Nonviolent Resistance Published by Gale Cengage

The Civil Rights Movement in...

(The entire section is 1428 words.)

Literary Style

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Narration and Dialect
Much of the critical acclaim awarded to Gaines for The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman...

(The entire section is 962 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Novels for Students)

1870s: The Emancipation Proclamation ends the legal sanction of slavery. However, many blacks remain in the South either as...

(The entire section is 256 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Novels for Students)

Ernest Gaines has remarked that modern literature and histories tend to focus on grand events and large cities. Research what he calls the...

(The entire section is 187 words.)

Techniques / Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Gaines's successful use of the dialects and tones of rural southerners of all races has invited comparisons to Faulkner, and specifically...

(The entire section is 531 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman was preceded by two novels, Catherine Carmier (1964) and Of Love and Dust (1967), and the collection...

(The entire section is 633 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The video production of The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman aired on CBS television on January 31, 1974. Cicely Tyson stars as Miss Jane...

(The entire section is 311 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Novels for Students)

The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman was adapted as a television drama in 1974 by Tracey Keenan for Tomorrow Entertainment Inc. The...

(The entire section is 101 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Novels for Students)

Harriet A. Jacobs's Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by herself was first published in 1861. Since then, it has...

(The entire section is 417 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Novels for Students)

Martin Arms, "MacPosh," in New Statesman, September 2, 1973, pp. 205-206.

Jerry H....

(The entire section is 817 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Babb, Valerie Melissa. Ernest Gaines. Boston: Twayne, 1991. A clear critical analysis that devotes one chapter to each of Gaines’s major works, including a detailed chapter on The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman that discusses the novel’s historical and cultural accuracy, use of oral history, themes, and character development.

Bell, Bernard W. “The Contemporary Afro-American Novel, Two: Modernism and Postmodernism.” In The Afro-American Novel and Its Tradition. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1987. Examines Gaines’s fiction as an example of Afro-American postmodernism, which differs from white...

(The entire section is 518 words.)