The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman

Respect for Characters’ Voices in Gaines’ The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman College

One of the most distinctive and immediately impressive things about Ernest Gaines’ novel, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, is the way the author opens his story with an introduction of a collective of speakers, his cast of character/narrators, so to speak. Gaines weaves his narrative through an interplay between the organizing consciousness of the story, the central voice of the story, and a kind of “chorus” of community voices, whom he allows to announce themselves in brief but immediately sympathetic ways. The respect Gaines shows for each of these collaborative narrators results in a kind of rhetorical coup, a story that moves among many disparate voices without ever becoming lost.

Among these collaborators is a teacher who is depicted as humble and respectful towards Miss Jane but, at the same time, determined to preserve the valuable resources of her experience and persona. These winning details are implicit in the book's introduction; therefore, the reader is immediately won over to the teacher's perspective. Similarly, the spirit of Miss Jane herself comes across with immediate appeal, first in her lack of awareness of the value of her story-- “she told me there was no story to tell” -- and then in the humorous...

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