God’s Little Acre Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1933

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Naturalism

Time of work: The early 1930’s

Locale: Georgia and South Carolina

Characters DiscussedTy Ty Walden

Ty God’s Little AcreTy Walden, an eccentric patriarch and sage of the Walden clan. He was a prosperous Georgia cotton farmer with more than one hundred acres, two black sharecroppers, and mules. For the past fifteen years, Ty Ty has been mining for gold on his property. He has destroyed the rich land and the crop with his obsessive search for the precious metal. To ease his conscience, the owner has set aside one acre of the land and dedicated it to God and the church. He frequently moves that acre around the property, however, creating a new location whenever he wishes to dig at the old one. Ty Ty claims not only that gold exists on his land because he has been looking for it all these years but also that he is very scientific about his excavating. His search becomes even more ludicrous when it leads him to kidnap and hold an albino male in the mistaken belief that the hostage will locate the gold for him. Ty Ty loves to philosophize about life: “There was a mean trick played on us somewhere. God put us in the bodies of animals and tried to make us act like people. That was the beginning of trouble.” His two greatest joys in life are digging a new hole for the elusive gold and staring at the female members of his family, particularly when they are undressing.

Will Thompson

Will Thompson, Ty Ty’s son-in-law, who is married to Ty Ty’s daughter Rosamond. Will and Ty Ty are much alike in outlook, philosophy, and vitality. Will likes to drink, fight, and womanize. He openly seduces his sisters-in-law, Darling Jill and the previously unobtainable Griselda. Will is not a farmer like the others but a loom-weaving mill worker who has been on strike for a year and a half. The three Walden brothers openly dislike him and derisively call him “linthead.” He is the symbolic leader of the strikers and angrily resents the American Federation of Labor’s strategy of not coming to terms with management. His fury is fueled by living in a company town and by being powerless to end the strike. Will becomes a tragic hero at the end when he leads the disgruntled workers back into the factory and turns on the equipment. He is shot three times in the back by security guards and is killed. His sacrificial death, the dramatic high point of the novel, stirs the workers to take action and brings the three Walden women who loved him closer together.

Griselda Walden

Griselda Walden, Ty Ty’s beautiful daughter-in-law, who is married to a jealous husband, Buck. Ty Ty says of her repeatedly that she is the prettiest girl in Georgia. Men are attracted to her, but she is put off by all of them except Will Thompson, whom she feels is a real man. Griselda openly offers herself to the eager Will in front of his wife and Darling Jill.

Darling Jill Walden

Darling Jill Walden, Ty Ty’s attractive and openly promiscuous daughter, who flirts with, and seduces, almost every man she meets. Her interest in lovers is momentary, however, and no man can truly claim her. Darling Jill badly mistreats and embarrasses her amiable suitor, Pluto Swint. Resentful of his corpulent appearance, she tells Pluto bluntly that he must lose his large belly. Attracted to the unobtainable Will, she finally promises to marry Pluto one day, but “I’d have to be a few months gone before I’d do that.”

Rosamond Thompson

Rosamond Thompson, Ty Ty’s other daughter, who is the very patient and long-suffering wife of Will Thompson. She dearly loves her husband and is extremely tolerant of his many love affairs, until she discovers him making love to her sister, Darling Jill, and beats them with a hairbrush. She fires a pistol at her wastrel husband, who leaps out a window and runs naked through the town streets. Rosamond must also suffer Will’s open seduction of the willing Griselda. Ultimately, however, she accepts Will’s drunkenness, adultery, and inevitable martyrdom.

Pluto Swint

Pluto Swint, the obese, bald-headed suitor of Darling Jill. He is a candidate for sheriff and worried that he will not be elected. Pluto has absolutely no ambition in life and has done very little work for years. His idea of a good life is to sit around all day and shoot pool, especially if he is elected. He owns a car and manages to get by on the income from a sixty-acre farm that is homesteaded by a black sharecropper. His passion for Darling Jill is overwhelming, and the more she openly abuses him and seduces other men, the more he desires her. Pluto knows that Darling Jill will marry him one day–it is only a matter of time.

BibliographyBurke, Kenneth. The Philosophy of Literary Form. 3d ed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973. Contains an article by the author that investigates the symbolic landscape, sexual taboos, fertility rites, caricatures, and grotesques in Caldwell’s two major novels.Cantwell, Robert, ed. The Humorous Side of Erskine Caldwell. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1951. An introduction to Caldwell’s humorous imagination, which makes the works more impressive and entertaining.Devlin, James. Erskine Caldwell. Boston: Twayne, 1984. Contains a chapter on the major themes in God’s Little Acre. Extensive annotated list of criticism.Klevar, Harvey L. Erskine Caldwell: A Biography. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1993. A detailed biography. Includes discussion of the Caldwell canon, including background, notoriety, dramatization, and key reviews of God’s Little Acre.Korges, James. Erskine Caldwell. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1969. An excellent condensed discussion of Caldwell’s works.
Categories: Characters