The doesn’t give up no matter the obstacles

The novel is
written from the perspective of Jane Pittman and gives her the agency to write
her own story and express her own thoughts and feelings through her own
subjectivity. She is the voice of the story rather than a secondary character
that is usually portrayed by a black female that supports the main character of
the story that is usually a black man that is a leader to his community. At the
very beginning when the author of the novel states that the novel is written
from Jane’s perspective and that it was written in her own words as much as was
possible, it symbolizes the path the story was going to take, where black women
are given the voice to shape their own narrative rather than it be told by
someone else. When Mary, Miss Jane’s agent asked the teacher: “What’s wrong
with them books you already got?” Then the teacher answered: “Miss Jane is not
in them.” It reflects the importance of Miss Jane’s Narrative told from an old
black woman rather than a black male leader. Jane is a symbol of black female
empowerment as her experiences reflect a resilient character that doesn’t give
up no matter the obstacles that she is faced with.  Jane is placed at the center of the story, her
voice being the dominant narrative. The story takes a form of storytelling, yet
the story doesn’t continue with only one narrative but begins to blur with the
narratives of other characters in the story and in a sense that reflects the
diffusion of female subjectivity into a union of female and male perspectives
that becomes a tale of the experiences of black people as a whole. “I should
mention that even though I have used only Miss Jane’s voice throughout the
narrative, there were times when others carried the story for her. When she was
tired, or when she just did not feel like talking anymore, or when she had
forgotten certain things, someone else would always pick up the narration….”
The novel expresses a collective female experience rather than an individual
one. It is a tale of the experiences of all black female characters and in a
sense the novel is not a story but a collection of stories. It represents the
history of slavery and the experiences of black people. It is a symbol to the
experiences of black people as a whole rather than an individual tale. Thus, in
a sense the character of Jane Pittman doesn’t reflect a submissive woman but
rather a collection of archetypes that push her towards the path of self-actualization.
Her character is a multidimensional one that is complicated as it is
intricately woven, that defies the traditional gender stereotypes of black
female subjects. Her character from a young age reflects a rebellious nature
and one that will stand against oppression and slavery. This can be seen at the
beginning of the story when Corporal Brown, a union soldier, called her Jane,
giving her a name other than her slave name, Ticey, which instilled in her a
need for freedom. After that, Jane underwent abuse and harsh treatment by her
master because she refused to be called by her slave name. This act of
disobedience reflects a resistance to slavery. Jane Pittman’ strength and
determination is also reflected in her being barren as it is a symbol of her
self-empowerment. Her being barren frees her from the objectification that is
placed upon a woman’s body in her role as a mother and sex object. Jane is showcased
as strong and independent and does not need a man in her life. She didn’t marry
Joe Pittman, but instead lived with him as his partner, which reflects her refusal
to submit to the restricting roles placed on women as the “wives of men”. Jane
charts her own path independent of a man, and in a way we can focus on the
story through the eyes of Jane rather than a “man’s wife.” This is a focus on
Jane’s character as a tool of freeing herself from oppressive forces. By
focusing on the tale through her eyes we can come to see the bigger picture of
the collective experience of black people. This displacement in narrative is
very important as the story takes on a collection of narratives later on with
Jane stepping down from the center of the story and acting as a bridge to the
experiences of other characters. This bridging is a form of leadership that
reflects the type of leadership black women adopted during and after slavery,
and its equal importance to the formal leadership black men adopted.

Big Laura

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The reconstruction
of female subjects as agents of freedom is also reflected in the body of some
of the characters. Big Laura is introduced at the beginning of the story as a
character that possesses physical traits that are equal to a man’s. “Now when
we came to the swamps nobody wanted to take the lead. Nobody wanted to be the
one blamed for getting everybody else lost. All us just standing there fumbling
round, waiting for somebody to take charge. Then somebody in the back said, “Move
out the way” I looked, and that was Big Laura. She was big just like her name
say, and she was tough as any man I ever seen. She could plow, chop wood, cut
and load much cane as any man on the place. She had two children……But even
with them two children she had the biggest bundle out there balanced on her
head.” She is equal to any man, thus in a sense displaces the dominance of men
in the story as she is as strong as any man out there, but she is also a mother
that is shown in her being a mother to two kids that reflect the different
roles one woman can play and that women are not reverted into only one role but
can have various characteristics and traits. Big Laura shows no fear when the
white patrollers attacked the group and confronts them. This reflects
resistance on her part to slavery and to being subject to the dominance of a
man. It’s a message that she can hold her own and that she is not afraid to
challenge authority. This is seen when one patroller exclaims, “Goddamn, she
was mean. Did you see her? Did you see her? Goddamn, she could fight.” Big
Laura is a strong character, not only in body but also in her resistance to the
oppressive forces of slavery. Her body is used as a tool to express her emancipation
from the restrictive traditional roles of women and her reconstruction as a
free woman. Her freedom is represented in her physical strength and her
resistance to slavery. Her freedom from oppressive gender stereotypes and

Black Harriet

Another female character
that is similar to Big Laura in her astounding physical prowess that is uniform
to a man’s is called Black Harriet, who was nicknamed “queen of the field.” “Her
name was Harriet Black, but she was so black (she was one of them Singalee
people) and the people called her Black Harriet. She didn’t have all her
faculties, but still she was queen of the field. She was tall, straight, tough,
and blue-black. Could pick more cotton, chop more cotton than anybody out
there, man or women, except for Toby Lewis. She was queen long before I came
here and she probably would have been queen long after if Katie Nelson hadn’t showed
up.” Black Harriet challenged the conventional roles of how a woman is portrayed,
her physical strength and determination freeing her from slavery and from
constructed stereotypes of what it means to be a woman. Black Harriet and Big
Laura reflected the idea of gender being a social construct. 


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