Ernest J Gaines’ 1971 Novel “The autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” provides a description of character traits that differ with generational changes. A comparison of the two characters reveals that Ned belongs to the liberal class of Americans in the south, whose mindsets have been transformed from the old model that emphasized on slavery, white supremacy and male chauvinism.
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On the other hand, Jimmy Caya belongs to the old generation of the American southerners. They believed in male dominance, white supremacy and racial discrimination. Therefore, it is convenient to argue that while Ned is a symbol of the younger generation that seeks to liberate the society from the old paradigm, Jimmy Caya belongs to the old generation that wants to maintain the status quo, provided the whites and males benefit at the expense of the black slaves.
Character analysis and contrasting: Ned Douglas versus Jimmy Caya
Ned Douglass is the Jane Pittman’s adopted son. He is a young man growing up under difficult social and economic conditions in the United States. In addition, he is black, which means that he has to endure the difficulties that most young African American people experience as they grow up.
Noteworthy, Ned is not only strong, but also insightful and brilliant. For instance, he is portrayed as a bright young man who, in contrast to the members of the older generations, is willing to give changes a chance. This is shown by his efforts to bring change through education, where he helps his people build a school for the young children. He acts like a teacher to the black people and believes that everyone is equal.
For example, he gives a sermon at the boat, in which he says “…blacks are true Americans and humans… and are therefore equal to all other American people regardless of the race…” (Gaines 134). He believes that through formal education, the black community, especially in rural areas of the US, will be in a position to fight for their rights, compete with whites and townspeople for the available job opportunities and lead better lives. He also seems to believe that education is a better way of fighting discrimination.
Despite knowing that his bold actions are likely to land him into trouble, he goes on to insist on bringing change to his people. For example, he is aware that the white-dominated authorities in the southern states are not willing to see black communities progress, and can do anything to stop him. In spite of this awareness, Ned insists on building the school for the black kids.
The author tends to portray Ned as a representative of the young and dynamic generation that is not only willing to sacrifice their lives for the betterment of the future generations, but who believe in the need for education as a tool to fight racial discrimination in the united states. For instance, he tells his black students that they must “…stand up and be true men in order to pursue your dreams, take better jobs and confront the social order, juts like Booker T Washington did…” (Gaines 139)
On the contrary, Jimmy is a relatively reserved person who perceives social and economical issues from the older or traditional perceptive. Although Jimmy Caya is not one of the main characters in the novel, he has been used as a representative of the old generation that feels comfortable with the old ideas, especially in the southern states. in this Novel, Jimmy Caya is Tee Bob’s best friend.
He obtained a good education, having attended the prestigious Louisiana state university at Baton Rouge. However, he does not own immense wealth, unlike the likes of Jules Raynard and Samson. In fact, Raynard thinks that Jimmy Caya is a low-ranking citizen for his lack of property, especially in terms of land.
Although he is young like Tee Bob, his thinking is old and reserved. For instance, he maintains the old ideas of the American south. For example, he believes in racial discrimination as a normal aspect of the society. In his quote “…the rules of the society…”, Jimmy seems to stick to the old thinking of the American south (Gaines 167).
Secondly, he looks down upon women. For example, when Tee Bob enters into a meaningful relationship with black women, he argues that it is unthinkable for a white male, especially of Bob’s class, to move with black women.
Even after he learns of the death of his friend Bob, he thinks that the girl that Bob loved was responsible for the death and should be held responsible. Jimmy says “…I had only explained the ‘rules of society’ to Bob earlier…” implying that Agnes must be held responsible “…as per the rules of the society…” (Gaines 167).
In conclusion, the characters of Jimmy and Ned are contrasting in various ways. While Ned attempts to use his education and social knowledge to free the people from ignorance and poverty, Jimmy believes in status quo. Jimmy does not want change, especially in terms of racism and male chauvinism.
The characters of Jimmy portrays him as an ideal representative of the younger generation, in comparison with that of Ned, an ideal representative of the older generation. Therefore, it is convenient to argue that while Ned is a symbol of the younger generation that seeks to liberate the society from the old paradigm, Jimmy Caya belongs to the old generation that wants to maintain the status quo, provided the whites and males benefit at the expense of the black slaves.
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Gaines, Ernest. The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. New York: Dial Press Paperbacks, 2009. Print