Ernest J. Gaines

Topics: The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, Ernest J. Gaines, National Book Critics Circle Award Pages: 8 (3177 words) Published: April 27, 2014
Twinkle Mehta
Mrs. Jamie Colbert
E3H
4/25/14
Ernest Gaines: Window to the Southern Soul
Ernest J. Gaines has authored many novels and short stories, many of which have become classics. He has won many awards, and is an accomplished man well recognized for his writings. His unique Southern upbringing set the stage for his distinctive regionalist writing style, which can be seen in his most famous works, A Lesson Before Dying, and The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. These novels effectively transport readers back in time, and unncover racism of the past. His books are riddled with symbolism, some of which has been analyzed by Mark Paryz. In his articles, he evaluated the importance of community and Isolation in A Lesson Before Dying. These deep concepts are just a few of things that make Gaines a very influential author. Gaines is still an active writer; however the legacy of his career will live on long after his death. 1.) Biography

Not many people can say that they were born on a plantation, but one of the few who can is Ernest J. Gaines. On January 15, 1933, Gaines was born on River Lake Plantation in Oscar by Near Roads, Louisiana. The plantation where he grew up wasn’t really much of a town, but he spent most of his childhood there all the same (Guzzio). By the time he was 8 years old he was cutting sugar cane (Boswell). He attended school in a one room building until his sophomore year when he moved to San Jose, California at the age of 15. He was enrolled into the San Jose High School and obtained his diploma in 1951. Following his high school career, he enrolled in the army for two years. After his service was complete he attended the San Francisco State College where he earned his Bachelors degree in English in 1957 (Guzzio). During this time is when his first short stories appeared in Transfer Magazine (Boswell). That same year he was accepted into Stanford’s creative writing program on a Wallace Stegner Fellowship (Guzzio). At Stanford, he discovered through the advice of a critic that writing novels would bring him more success than short stories, which started his career in writing novels (Werlock). Gaines made several failed attempts at writing a novel until he decided to go back to his home state Louisiana to do some research. After doing so, he had his first novel, Catherine Carmier, published in 1964. His promising career as a young writer began. He went on to publish Of Love and Dust (1967), The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1971), In My Father's House (1978), A Gathering of Old Men (1983), and A Lesson before Dying (1993). He has also written a novella (A Long Day in November [1971]), and 2 collections of short fiction (Bloodline [1968]) and Mozart and Leadbelly: Stories and Essays which is biographical. Ernest Gaines has led a very fulfilling life and Currently spends his days teaching and inspiring young writers (Boswell). 2.) Awards and Influence

The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman is what brought Gaines to fame. Two years later in 1973 he received a Guggenheim Fellowship and continued writing novels. In 1994 A Lesson Before Dying won the National Book Critics Circle Award (Guzzio). Gaines’ experience with slavery shaped his works, in addition to the inspiring influence that William Faulkner had on him. His fiction writings can be described as regionalist work, because they are all set in Louisiana. In Gaines’ life he has accomplished many things. His books on more than one occasion have been made into television movies, and he has received numerous awards. For example, A Lesson Before Dying, published in 1993, won the National Book Critics’ Circle Award in 1994. He recieved a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1973, and also the prestigious MacArhur Foundation “Genius” Award in 1994. Gaines also became a Chavalier in France’s Order of Arts and Letters in 2000. One of Gaines’ more popular books is The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. Published in 1971, it is the book that won...

Cited: Boswell, Marshall, and Carl Rollyson, eds. "Gaines, Ernest J." Bloom 's Literature. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 2 Apr. 2014
Gaines, Ernest J. A Lesson before Dying. New York: Vintage, 2004. Print.
Guzzio, Tracie Church. "Gaines, Ernest." Bloom 's Literature. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 19 Mar. 2014 .
Paryz, Marek. "Alienation in A Lesson before Dying." McClinton-Temple, Jennifer ed. Encyclopedia of Themes in Literature. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2011.Bloom 's Literature. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 25 Apr. 2014 .
Paryz, Marek. "Community in A Lesson before Dying." McClinton-Temple, Jennifer ed. Encyclopedia of Themes in Literature. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2011.Bloom 's Literature. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 25 Apr. 2014 .
Werlock, Abby H. P. "Gaines, Ernest J." Bloom 's Literature. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 18 Mar. 2014 .
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