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God's Little Acre by Erskine Caldwell

God's Little Acre (1933)

by Erskine Caldwell

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556827,720 (3.56)42
A Georgia dirt farmer believes there is gold on his land, leading him and his sons to spend fifteen years digging holes all over the family farm.
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» See also 42 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
Not going to read this one either. While TV and movies might lend themselves to the portrayal af just plain stupid people, I have no tolerance for that in books. ( )
  cwcoxjr | Sep 5, 2019 |
... oggi ne godo la scrittura, la capacità miracolosa di ricostruire un mondo senza alcun apparente intervento esplicativo: non c'è alcuna esplicita ricostruzione psicologica dei bestiali (in senso proprio) protagonisti, non viene offerta nessuna chiave interpretativa sociale o morale, non c'è una 'storia' che venga narrata, le descrizioni più lunghe sono di una riga, e il romanzo è costruito quasi esclusivamente con il dialogo diretto dei protagonisti (e lui disse e lei rispose...). Eppure ripugnanza e fascino, giudizio morale e compassione per questi disgraziati crescono di pagina in pagina e scaturiscono da soli dall'aggrovigliarsi insensato del loro moto relativo, dall'inconsistenza casuale e irrazionale delle loro azioni, dalle parole, tra loro mai leggere, ma quasi sempre inutili...
Insomma un gran libro. ( )
  icaro. | Aug 31, 2017 |
It is very hard to rate a good book when it flies in the face of one's principles. In God's Little Acre, author Erskine Caldwell expresses an attitude towards sex, marriage and women that I find offensive, but he does it so well that while I may disagree with pretty much all of what he says, I have to admit it is an excellent book.

The bulk of the story would seem to focus on Georgia farmer Ty Ty Walden, his sons (Buck, Shaw and the estranged John Leslie) and his daughters (Rosamund and Darling Jill). Also central to the story are Buck's wife, Griselda, and Rosamund's husband, Will Thompson.

Ty Ty is has gold fever, and is determined to dig up gold on his farm - determined enough, in fact, to almost cease any meaningful farming to devote himself (along with sons Buck and Shaw) to digging deep holes all over his farm in an effort to find gold. He does this his entire life, and does so even though a man familiar with gold mining tells him he will never find gold by digging holes in the ground.

Will Thompson works in a cotton mill, although the mill has been shuttered by the company that owns it. The company wants the union to accept a lower hourly wage, while the union refuses to do so. Will is determined to lead his fellow workers back to the mill, take the mill over and start operating it themselves.

Underneath the two story lines is a much more complex theme involving the relationship between men and women, and the proper role of women. There is no doubt that Caldwell treats women as objects, in every sense of the word. Buck's wife, Griselda, is portrayed as an extremely beautiful woman. Ty Ty talks to every man who sees Griselda, telling them how beautiful she is, how sexual she is - all of this in front of Griselda, who protests mildly, but seems to accept the "praise." For Caldwell, women are made to cook and serve as a repository for semen; it is up to a real man to properly take possession of a woman (even if she is someone else's wife), and real women expect this. And if women get a bit uppity about things, it is apparently acceptable to smack them around.

Griselda is, apparently, a real woman, and Will Thompson is a real man. This is made pointedly clear when Will rips the clothes off Griselda (in front of his wife, Rosamund, and Darling Jill), and then takes Griselda to his bed for the night. All three women seem quite fine with this, making sure to fix Will a good breakfast the next morning. When Ty Ty finds out, he apologizes to Griselda for the fact that Buck isn't quite the man that Will is, but says he hopes Buck will mature to be such a man.

The title of the book refers to Ty Ty's practice of keeping one acre of land set aside for growing crops (when possible, I guess) as a duty to god. As luck would have it, god's little acre gets shifted around a bit to make way for another attempt at mining gold. The symbolism here is fairly straight forward.

Would I recommend this book? I really don't know. It is written in regional dialect, and text is kept to a minimum. Sort of like Cormac McCarthy without any substance. There seems to be so much wrong with the themes developed in this book that it almost negates the fact that - as an example of stylistic writing - God's Little Acre is a great piece of literature. ( )
1 vote jpporter | Jul 2, 2016 |
One man's obsession ruins a Southern rural family. Not too good - highly overrated. ( )
  JVioland | Jul 14, 2014 |
The Penguin paperback copy of "God's Little Acre" I just finished reading was printed in February 1948 and was Penguin's 18th printing of Erskine Caldwell's 1933 novel. It's first printing was in March 1946, meaning the publisher had been printing new copies of the book almost monthly. That gives some idea of just how popular Caldwell's novel was at the time. Few people read it today, but from the Thirties to the Sixties it created a sensation.

That had a lot to do with the New York obscenity case brought against Viking when it first published the book in 1933. The court determined the novel had literary merit and was not pornographic, but afterward everybody wanted to read it to see what all the fuss was about.

The sexuality in the story is not at all explicit, yet even today, more than 80 years after its original publication, "God's Little Acre" seems shocking. Caldwell writes about a Depression-era family in the rural South whose patriarch, Ty Ty, is obsessed with finding gold on his land. His soil is rich and he could make a good living farming his land, but instead he and his grown sons, Buck and Shaw, dig great holes in their search for the gold Ty Ty remains convinced lies somewhere on his land.

God's little acre is that small portion of his land, significantly less than an acre, Ty Ty has set aside for God. He swears he will give to the church any income produced from this little acre, but he makes it a point to move God's land somewhere else on his property whenever he decides to dig there. Also living on the farm are Darling Jill, Ty Ty's promiscuous youngest daughter, and Griselda, Buck's beautiful wife. Darling Jill expects to someday to marry Pluto, the plump and stupid candidate for sheriff, but in the meantime has sex with just about any man except him. As for Griselda, her beauty drives men crazy. This includes Ty Ty, her father-in-law, and especially Will, married to another of Ty Ty's daughters, and Jim Leslie, another of his sons, who wants little to do with his embarrassing family, that is until he sees Griselda.

Caldwell clearly had great literature as his goal when he wrote "God's Little Acre." The novel deals with such themes as the plight of the South's non-union laborers, the neglect of the land and the hypocrisy of those whose lives fall far short of the religious ideals they espouse. The author may, in fact, have tried to say too much in his relatively short novel, allowing his portrayal of a lusty Southern family to become the center of his story. ( )
2 vote hardlyhardy | Jun 30, 2014 |
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Erskine Caldwellprimary authorall editionscalculated
Avati, JamesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Several yards of undermined sand and clay broke loose up near the top, and the land slid down to the floor of the crater.
He bent over his shovel, kicking the blade into the clay with his foot and wondering how soon Shaw would come back to help him dig.
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God's Little Acre was published by Viking Press in 1933, one year after the publication of Tobacco Road. In it, Caldwell shifts his sights to the industrialized South. Influenced in part by the textile mill strikes in Gastonia, North Carolina, he considered this work to be a "proletarian" novel dealing with the plight of workers deprived of union protection. It was intended to support these mill hands, or "lintheads," as they were sometimes called. Will Thompson, who leads the strike, represents both the inherent power and the frustration of the working class. When Thompson is killed by guards as he attempts to reopen the mill shut down by its ruthless owners, his death becomes a rallying cry; and his corpse is borne through the streets, but the mills remain closed.

The book also examines the misuse of the land and other natural resources. Ty Ty Walden, who (unlike Jeeter Lester) still owns his farm, spends his time digging for gold instead of farming the rich soil. His delusion and the tragedy it brings to his family again illustrate the waste Caldwell saw in southern attitudes toward the land.

Like Tobacco Road, God's Little Acre contains scenes of explicit sexuality. In April 1933 the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice took Caldwell and Viking Press to court for dissemination of pornography. More than sixty authors, editors, and literary critics rallied in support of the book, and Judge Benjamin Greenspan of the New York Magistrates Court ruled in its favor. The court case is still considered a major decision in the establishment of artists' First Amendment rights in freedom of expression. The book became a worldwide best-seller and remains today one of the most popular novels ever published.
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