God’s Little Acre by Erskine Caldwell

After being enthralled with Tobacco Road, I was ready for more Erskine Caldwell.  Equally if not even more disturbing, God’s Little Acre took human indifference and overt sexuality to a whole new level.  And that’s a fact…

Set primarily on an underutilized farm in Georgia and a cotton mill in Carolina, God’s Little Acre introduces the Walden family who have been digging for gold for over fifteen years to no avail.  A married daughter living in Carolina with her striking husband,  a strong proponent of worker’s rights, represents the emergence of the industrial revolution and union representation.

The family patriarch, Ty Ty Walden lusts for gold and his daughter-in-law.  He neglects farming in favor of gold digging and is joined by his two sons and in search for more help, kidnaps an albino neighbor for his purported divining abilities.  When his black farm hands threaten to eat his mule since he hasn’t given them food, he counters that he will beat them if they do so.  His children’s blatant licentiousness is of no concern as he believes people who give into their desires are living a more honest and natural life.  Those unable to live this way are restricted by religion in his belief while he maintains an acre of his land whose profits would be turned over to God, thus the title.  This acre, rather conveniently, was moved quite often as he continued digging as he feared striking it big and having to turn it over.

Darling Jill Walden, the youngest daughter, is sexually unrestrained and enjoys the pleasure of many men while her father chuckles.  Unabashed in her pleasure, she is indiscriminate and enjoys any man who catches her scent.  She is courted by the corpulent Pluto Swint, who she will likely marry after she finds herself pregnant.  A life devoted to self satisfaction alone, Darling Jill seems to be in search of the unattainable.  Not likely the girl to bring home for dinner…

Will Thompson, Rosamond Walden’s husband, laughs at the family’s futile attempts at digging for gold and is a devoted factory man with strong beliefs in protecting the rights of workers.  He is uncomfortable at the family farm and longs to return to his home although he has been out of work for eighteen months.  He attempts to take over the mills and the results are tragic.  This could have been a hero, however, his debauchery makes Darling Jill appear prudish as he beds his sisters-in-law in the presence of his wife.  C’mon, I know we’re sexual beings, but his behavior took away from what he was supposed to represent.

What in the pluperfect hell was Mr. Caldwell trying to say?  I think he had a lot to say; about the industrial revolution, about the need for union protection, and about hopelessness so he pushed the literary envelope as far as he could with regards to human desire and sexuality.  Well there would certainly be no shortage of things to discuss with this interesting fellow who I’d hope would share some of his fine writing skills.

My rating for God’s Little Acre  is a 9 out of 10.

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Next up, Maya Angelou’s  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings


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