on March 4, 2007
I think the notion that anyone would attempt to rate this book as anything less than a cornerstone of American literature and a glimpse into what was once a good portion of our country is a little silly. 80 million copies and 40 languages as an indication of success will probably hold up under the weight of a critical Internet Amazon review. In many ways God's Little Acre is a bit like Knut Hamsun's "Growth of the Soil" in the context of simple people and a story is not exclusively American. It is a part of every developing society, regardless language, race, ethnicity, etc., etc...
Simple, uneducated people who comprised the characters in the book, did do not live a life with a perspective derived from college dorms, GameBoy or a value system indoctrination. They didn't know they were racist, they didn't know they were greedy and they didn't realize that being preoccupied with sex was a bad thing. I'm not so sure I did either. I kind of think that is the point, the author's presentation of something he knew and wanted to share with others, a life quite different from ours.
Don't scream and put your head in a paper bag when you read this book. Don't hyperventilate over racism, sex, poverty and a fool's search for gold. The book is good insight, the book captures the reality of a type of person that lived mostly at another place in time. It is a part of American history, it was a part of American life. I was born in the south, but not that long ago. The characters don't frighten me, they don't speak for me, but I know who they are. I honestly don't think going back to 1933 would be necessary to find these types of folks.
A great book, colorful and tantalizing story and it takes only a couple of hours to read. Don't let shrieking PC keep you from a learning experience.
Written in 1933, this story is set in rural Georgia in a time and location of great poverty. It was quite a sensation when it came out, because it was so full of blatant incestuous sex. First, you have Ty Ty who has raised 3 boys and 2 girls on his own. All 3 boys and one sister have married, while the youngest girl, Darling Jill, is a sex-pot sleeping with everyone who she can. Griselda, one of the sisters-in-law, has a gorgeous body and everybody wants to sleep with her. Ty Ty makes sure that he tells everyone he can talk to that her body is really hot and makes a man want to lick her. As you might imagine, disaster results.
So in one way the entire story (209 pages) is about guys lusting after girls, girls choosing to accept or reject a given lustful attempt, and the father either saying "I want everything to be peaceful" while goading every man he meets to sleep with Griselda.
There are other layers here too. The entire region is destitute. But while Ty Ty has a large spread of fertile land, he has dedicated the last 15 years of his life to digging gigantic holes in search of gold. He is starving to death - and his two negro share-croppers are also starving. Only 2 of the kids have escaped this hole-digging escapade. One is the married sister, Rosamond. She's married Will, a mill-worker. Unfortunately, the mill has shut down and the entire mill-town is starving. They are holding out for better wages and have lasted a year and a half on the barest of rations. The second is the oldest son, who made a ton of money brokering cotton and now refuses to talk to the rest of the family because of their foolish hole-digging.
So Will the mill-worker COULD work, but he and the town are holding out for principles. Ty Ty and his clan COULD farm and feed themselves - but they spend their energy digging holes for gold. There are only 2 non-family-members in the story, Pluto is an overweight man who lusts after Darling Jill. Even he refuses to work. He wants to campaign to be Sheriff, because then he'd be paid for sitting around. Dave is the albino the family grabbed to 'divine' the gold for them. He's married, but after one look at Darling Jill he stays to have sex with her.
Even the greed and lust of the men is often only half-hearted. Pluto wants to be Sheriff - but it's usually too hot for him to go talking to voters. Ty Ty gets a desire to have an albino, but then dilly dallies for hours before setting out.
The title of the book refers to Ty Ty's land, full of holes. Ty Ty feels he is generous by setting aside one acre to be "for God" - that all proceeds from the acre will be donated to the church. But in actuality, Ty Ty "moves" the acre around to make sure that he never digs on it - he doesn't want to risk his gold going to the church. It's the same with other aspects of Ty Ty's life. He feels he's scientific in his hole-digging - but he ropes and grabs an albino man to "divine" for him where to dig next. He wants his family to be peaceful and happy, while goading every male member to sleep with Griselda. None of the characters are very bright. They all are driven by instincts, usually either sex, or greed, or both. The men all go for what they want. With the exception of Darling Jill who has sex when she wants, the women all sit back and are acted on. Griselda in fact lets Will grab her because he is a "real man" - and Will's wife watches the entire thing happen, again because Will is a real man.
Which brings us to the other disappointing parts of the book. The stereotypes in the book are pretty staggering. This entire family is completely unable to care for themselves. They are animals grabbing for gold and rutting with whoever is nearby. The negros are wide-eyed and simple. They're all starving to death and they don't care. I understand of course they are exaggerations in order to make a point - but when the over-characterizations go to the ludricrous stage, it begins to lose its impact.
Also, while the book's sexual exploits are rather tame by today's standards, it is still rather sex-filled. There was a lot of interesting material here - the special acre, the way the people HAD the ability to feed themselves but chose not to do it. The way Ty Ty sought peace while undermining it. But the book instead focusses on the shocking things - of men standing and watching their naked female family members undressing, taking baths, having sex, whatever. You really do not get any sense of any character in the book having dimension. They are either horny men, or sex-object women.
That all being said, I really did feel like there was an underlayer here that was interesting. The idea of this special acre of land really touched me. First, Ty Ty moves it around to keep it 'safe' from the gold. Then Ty Ty puts it under the house, where there's no risk of it being involved in a dig attempt. Ty Ty's home is resting on God's Acre. But soon Ty Ty's digging efforts cause his own house to begin to cave in. When Ty Ty realizes that one of his sons is in danger, he desperately tries to set the "acre" in motion - to always stay beneath his son, and keep him safe.
on January 4, 2005
Maybe this book was too contemporary for its 1930's audience. However, the theme and language are quite tame compared to some of the works of the 21st century writers. Although there are many people in Georgia who are extemely intelligent and have created the best literature to date (Margaret Mitchell & Alice Walker, for example). There are still people who are similar to the characters in God's Little Acre in Georgia and other colorful characters in the United States. This work compares to the writings of William Falkner, who is considered tied for the honor of the greatest writer of the 20th Century along beside Ernest Hemmingway. It also compares with Billy Bob Thortnon's brilliance of charater in his writings as well. The theme is spiritual as well as sensual. Don't take my word for it...Read it and compare it to Slingblade, The Sound and the Fury, and The Color Purple.
on January 2, 2000
I bought Tobacco Road and God's Little Acre because one of the gang, that I respected, said that this was one of his favorite books. And since I like expanding my horizons, especially on the literary front, I bought God's Little Acre. I was surprised. I expected to find Jed Clampett and his family instead I found a man who lived by his own sense of morality, social status, all told in a prose that at times switches from brutally honest to poetry of the highest order. Sure the frank sexuality is present. What isn't usually stated, when people are discussing God's Little Acre, is the basic principal of Ty Ty Walden behind it. With all foundations of social behavior, God's Little Acre, is an example that there are deadly consequences because not everyone that is subject to, or born and raised in that social theory will act accordingly to the theorist imaginings. The novel is about men living up to their own definition of manhood. It is about the clash of social mandates and personal morals. It is the telling of truths that dares to put a reason behind societal misdeeds. Caldwell wrote a splendid back.
on April 17, 2003
Like his two other classic novels, 'Tobacco Road' (1931) and the less popular 'Journeyman' (1935), Erskine Caldwell's masterpiece, 'God's Little Acre' (1933) is a funny, sensual, raw, and powerful novel whose tragic story is loosely structured within a mythological framework.
Uneducated protagonist and patriarch Ty Ty Walden is a Georgia farmer who is gleefully obsessed with the idea that there is a literal gold mine waiting to be discovered somewhere in his land's soil.
Optimistic Ty Ty (whose two favorite expressions are "what in the pluperfect hell?" and "Well I'll be a suck-egg mule") has spent almost two decades fruitlessly digging fifteen-foot deep holes across his farm, like an archetypal searcher after fairy gold or pirate treasure.
Far from reflecting Thoreau's conservatorial ideas about nature at Walden Pond, the Walden farm is slowly falling to ruin; fewer and fewer crops are planted each year, and the huge craters in the earth are left gaping. To make the process more "scientific," Ty Ty and his two antagonistic sons, Buck and Shaw, have violently kidnapped albino Dave Dawson, who they believe will be able to "divine" the location of the lode due to his freakish "betwixt and between" status.
The starving black sharecroppers on the farm perceive the swamp-dwelling Dave as a daimonic "conjur" figure, and flee in terror.
Hoping to pacify his creator and perhaps turn his luck, Ty Ty has continually designated one parcel of his land as "God's little acre," the harvest from which belongs to the Lord.
Though he has promised himself he will always forward the proceeds of the acre to the church, Ty Ty, fearing that he may be accidentally promising away his as-yet undiscovered gold, moves 'God's little acre' from one area to another whenever the whim strikes him.
Thus, one of the book's subtle motifs is a semiconscious denial of divine forces.
Ty Ty half-heartedly appeases his god with one hand while reneging on the deal with the other. "Blood on my land," a not uncommon motif in Western literature, is the result.
Though the Walden family is far more socialized than the Lesters of 'Tobacco Road,' they are nonetheless all blissfully ignorant and happily unconscious of themselves.
Ty Ty, his sons, and his son-in-law think nothing of making aggressive, groping passes at one another's wives or any other woman they think attractive, whether alone or in one another's company. "It's all in the family, ain't it?" says visionary son-in-law Will.
Ty Ty goes so far as to say to Buck's beautiful wife Griselda, "The first time I saw you...I felt like getting right down there and licking something."
Blushing Griselda, embarrassed but also touched by what she perceives as a compliment made in front of the gathered family, merely says, "Aw, now, Pa."
For all of the men and most of the women, just about anyone is fair sexual game, regardless of age, race, creed, or status within the family or society.
Daughter Darling Jill, continually on the lookout for erotic novelty, seduces her sister's husband and escorts Dave into the darkness behind the house on his first night of capture. For all of the Waldens, ardent sexual desire is a sign of vigor, health, and stamina; for everyone except Buck and daughter Rosamund, almost all sexual activity is of little or no consequence, either before or after the fact.
Contrarily, a drowsy spell also seems to hang over the farm: several of the characters, including Ty Ty, lose their impetus, momentum, and motivation from moment to moment, so that a thirty - second return to the house to retrieve a forgotten item delays a motor trip by several hours; simply rising from a chair in the late afternoon sun is an action that takes concentration, will, and decisive resolve.
Like the Lesters, the Walden clan, rutting animals all, are as much a tribe as a family. "Share and share alike" could be their motto; no high premium is set on individuality or personal development.
When political hopeful Pluto Swint (Pluto has eyes the size of "watermelon seeds" and is morbidly obese: appropriately, his surname a cross between 'squint' and 'swine'), the novel's loudly-dressed, constantly sweating court jester and patsy, arrives on the farm to canvas votes (upon encountering albino prisoner Dave, the first thing Pluto says is, "Who's that? Is he a voter?"), he immediately falls prey to the family's miasmic collective unconsciousness and the torpor in the air.
The book's secondary plot revolves around Promethean son-in-law Will, the leader of a group of striking mill workers in a small South Carolina town. Unlike the rest of the Waldens, Will has visionary power in addition to a robust physique and 'willful' determination and inner confidence.
Throughout the novel, Will has a series of dreamy reveries in which the mill is again fully operational, the hungry strikers are gainfully employed, and pretty, respectful young local girls, with their luscious "rising beauties," are awaiting their bread-earning spouses and lovers outside the factory walls at dusk.
Like his father-in-law Ty Ty, Will has more than a touch of the enchanted poet about him. As if momentarily captured by fairies, Will awakens from his visions to find that he has been taken "away" and then "returned" to the present. Despite his penchant for alcoholism, womanizing, and spousal abuse, the still Christ-like Will is the heart and soul of 'God's Little Acre,' and the subject of some of Caldwell's most powerful writing.
Banned in Boston and attacked by the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice upon release, 'God's Little Acre,' which has one of the most suspenseful climaxes in Twentieth century American literature, went on to sell more than 10 million copies. Ultimately more hopeful, warm, and uplifting than the farcical 'Tobacco Road,' 'God's Little Acre' displays Caldwell's vision at its broadest and finds the author at the height of his fictional powers.
on September 3, 2011
Like Caldwell's other masterpiece, TOBACCO ROAD, GOD'S LITTLE ACRE is the intimate story of a southern family. Once again set in deep Georgia, this is the story of the Walden family...and what a family they are. Much like TOBACCO ROAD, the story revolves around a family patriarch. For as long as anyone can remember,Ty Walden has been digging up his entire property, searching for gold. The title is derived from a corner of the property designated as "God's little acre". If gold is discovered on that part of the property then it would be donated to god or the church. But when pressed about it, Ty always has a scheme to move god's acre to a place that's already been dug up or thought to be barren.
The various cast of characters includes Ty's sons, one of whom is married to a great beauty, Grizelda. Every man who sees Grizelda for the first time can only gaze upon her beauty. Then there is Ty's daughter, Darling Jill, who has been stringing along a local politician, Pluto, promising to marry him. Ty will do just about anything to continue digging his land for gold. This includes acting as a pimp when a rich son who wants nothing to do with Ty's schemes, sets his eyes on Grizelda. He practically assures the son that he can make Grizelda sleep with him for a loan of a couple of hundred dollars. When Ty and his sons kidnap an albino from deep in the swamps, because local legend has it that an albino can divine gold under the ground, Ty doesn't stop Darling Jill from working her magic on the poor albino.
What is fascinating about Caldwell's characters is their unabashed enthusiasm in pursuing their goals. Nothing will stop Ty from discovering gold on his property, just as nothing will stop the sons and a son-in-law from warring with each other over women.
Another undiscovered classic from a great author. Highly recommended!
on October 4, 2015
Had I not spent most of my life working with the public nor ever had seen a single episode of Jerry Springer, I may have found these characters too unbelievable. As it is, people are people and the world is made of all sorts of individuals who, through the ages, have not changed all that much.
This story is about poorly educated individuals in a family doing what they can to survive in the world while living in abject poverty in a remote area of Georgia during The Great Depression. They are desperate, starving, nearing hopelessness, fairly helpless and ill-equipped to solve their own problems.
The patriarch, Ty Ty, was from an era where many people believed one didn’t need a good deal of education to be a farmer. The Great Depression tore that world apart. Given the fact most people of that time never traveled far from home and the area was quite remote and isolated, he likely felt his options were few. Since gold had been found in the area near him, he felt the best way to provide for his family was to find gold on his property. In spite of his failed efforts, he was able to maintain his optimism and he definitely displayed a great deal of tenacity.
on October 10, 2015
Interesting glimpse into the life of impoverished, uneducated people (who happened to live in the South during the Depression). Almost painful at times to read, with the repetitiveness of certain phrases and ideas; characters with whom I cannot relate; and blatant insensitivity of anyone's feelings. I'm very much against political correctness, and this was an extreme in the other direction. However, I am glad I read it. I do see why people wanted it banned and were successful in doing so. Regardless, I'm not in favor of banning literature.
on December 21, 2015
Gods little acre is about a single father with 4 sons and 3 daughters who are sharecroppers. They eek out a living with cotton, but the main focus of Ty Ty (dad) is to strike it rich mining for gold on his many acres.
There is a great deal is sex in this book, and not married husband and wife sex. I cannot understand some of it, at one point a husband literally rips the clothes off a woman p, in a crowded room, IN FRONT OF HIS WIFE who does nothing to stop it or even get angry. I don't know if it shows the inequality of women in the 30's, but I had a hard time believing they wouldn't sneak off somewhere.
So that is why it is 3 stars. Not as bleak as Tobacco road, but more disturbing.
on September 6, 2012
a classic story of the poor people during the depression years in the old south. first read
this 50 yrs ago and enjoyed it again recently.
a genuine classic author. amazon offers these
old classics so all generations can enjoy them.