Places: God’s Little Acre

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1933

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Naturalism

Time of work: Late 1920’s

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places DiscussedWalden farm

Walden God’s Little Acrefarm. Sixty-acre farm in Georgia with more than twenty acres cratered with excavated holes from ten to thirty feet deep. The holes and craters make it impossible to cultivate the land around the farmhouse. The promise of gold, based on an old report that a nugget was found there, keeps the Waldens from planting crops that could allow them to live reasonably well. Instead they live from hand to mouth, waiting for a gold strike that never happens. Eventually, the land is tainted by the blood of one of the Waldens’ sons, when Buck shoots and kills his brother Jim Leslie in a jealous rage.

God’s little acre

God’s little acre. Constantly shifting parcel of the Walden farm that TyTy dedicates to God. In a none-too-pious concession to his Christian beliefs, TyTy dedicates one acre of his land to God but regularly negates the gesture by reassigning the acre whenever it stands in the path of his gold-digging work. The acre represents TyTy’s belief that there is within him “some aspect of God.” As he shifts the parcel around, however, he devastates more and more of the land. TyTy moves the acre each time he, his sons, and the African American workers start a new hole. The final time that he moves the acre is after his son Buck shoots Jim Leslie. Wanting to ensure that Buck will be on God’s land as he walks away from the killing, TyTy wishes that the acre will follow Buck everywhere he walks that evening.

*Augusta

*Augusta. Georgia city, close to the South Carolina border, where TyTy’s son, the cotton broker Jim Leslie, has a fine home and an upper-class wife. It is a place where temptations as well as opportunities beckon. Financial gratifications are also to be gotten there: Jim Leslie gives his father money that will ease some of the constraints on the family. On the other hand, Jim Leslie develops an unwholesome interest in Buck’s wife Griselda. The family leaves Augusta fairly quickly, once they are given money by Jim Leslie. That they go to Augusta only rarely and stay there only briefly is indicative of a reluctance to leave the familiarity of their farm to attempt a different, more promising approach to life.

Scottsville

Scottsville. Cotton mill town in Horse Creek Valley, in South Carolina near the Georgia border. TyTy’s daughter Rosamond lives here in a company house with her union-activist husband Will Thompson. Will is killed at the mill trying to force the mill management to reopen after a lockout. Erskine Caldwell worked in a mill and was well aware of the hardscrabble lives endured by the workers. Horsecreek Valley is also mentioned in Caldwell’s Tobacco Road (1932).

Rosamond and Will’s home

Rosamond and Will’s home. Small company house in which the couple lives throbs with the sexual tension between Will and Rosamond’s sister Darling Jill. As the unfettered emotions of the girl build to the predictable climax, they are matched by the increasing violence among the mill workers and the mill owners.

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: Places