Study Guide

Kneel to the Rising Sun

by Erskine Caldwell

Kneel to the Rising Sun Summary

Summary (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Kneel to the Rising Sun” focuses on the poor white sharecropper Lonnie Newsome, as he struggles to cope with psychological abuse and physical deprivation at the hands of the plantation owner and with the death of his own father, which was directly related to this deprivation.

Initially, Lonnie agonizes about how to conquer his fear and request more rations from plantation owner Arch Gunnard for himself and his starving family. His agony is intensified by the proximity of Clem Henry, an African American sharecropper who confronts Arch for more rations in a seemingly fearless way when he and his family are in need. Lonnie’s hesitance provides Arch Gunnard the opportunity to further terrorize Lonnie and possibly Clem Henry and the other sharecroppers who are present. Arch cuts off the tail of Lonnie’s groveling dog with his jackknife, adding it to his large collection of tails. Overwhelmed by the abuse of his dog and his own fear, Lonnie fails to ask for more rations despite his father’s assessment that the entire family will starve to death within three months without an increase in rations.

Late that evening, because of hunger, Mark Newsome, Lonnie’s deaf father, wanders off in search of food. Lonnie and Clem discover Lonnie’s father dead and partially devoured in the pen in which Arch Gunnard fattens his savage hogs. With difficulty, they extract what remains of the elder Newsome, and at Clem’s urging, Lonnie wakes up Arch...

(The entire section is 445 words.)