Summary (Masterplots II: African American Literature, Revised Edition)
The Land, which chronicles the coming-of-age of Paul-Edward Logan, is a prequel to Mildred D. Taylor’s award-winning novel Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (1976). Paul narrates his own story, which unfolds not only as an indictment of race relations in post-Civil War Mississippi but also as an inspiring tale of the search for identity and human validation through the struggle to own “the land.” The land (a choice piece of meadowland that is dear to the narrator’s heart) comes to represent much more than mere earth and farm—it becomes a metaphor for Paul’s metamorphosis into a man, an equal, and a self-realized human being who has come to terms with the reality of his life but who remains undaunted by it.
From the beginning, Paul must grapple with the nature of his birth: He is the son of Edward Logan, a former slaveholder who fathered two multiracial children. Moreover, Paul’s mother, Deborah, loves Edward and willingly stays with him. Logan treats his children by Deborah as equitably as his social standing will allow, but Paul bristles at the partiality Edward shows to his white sons when the presence of white society warrants it. In a hard-learned lesson, Paul is heartlessly humiliated by his father, who whips him for speaking back to white neighbors.
Betrayed by his beloved white brother Robert and cheated out of his pay by a white man, Paul decides to run away to make his own way in the world. He is accompanied by the adventurous and somewhat volatile Mitchell Thomas in a daring escape after Mitchell punches the white man and takes the money owed to Paul. The two are aided and abetted by two white women in an exciting episode of clever intrigue. After stints together training horses, logging, and clearing land, the two friends separate. Paul, who earlier apprenticed in furniture making, hires himself out to Luke Sawyer as both a horseman and a craftsman. As time goes by, Paul cannot forget the land he fell in love with, and he sets about to own it. A series of intense events and double-dealing complications almost unravels his dream to obtain the land, but through several surprising twists and turns and Paul’s constant tenacity, the land becomes his.
Bibliography (Masterplots II: African American Literature, Revised Edition)
Bontempo, Barbara. “Exploring Prejudice in Young Adult Literature Through Drama and Role Play.” ALAN Review, Spring, 1995. Discusses strategies for teaching books such as The Land to adolescents, using role playing to understand issues of prejudice.
Crowe, Chris. Presenting Mildred D. Taylor. New York: Twayne, 1999. Based on interviews with the author, this study delves into Taylor’s life and its relationship to her work, including the saga of the Logan family continued in The Land.
Rochman, Hazel. “Working the Land.” Review of The Land, by Mildred D. Taylor. Booklist 97, no. 22 (August, 2001): 2108. Discusses Taylor’s novel and its place in her Logan family series.
Taylor, Mildred. “The Booklist Interview.” Interview by Hazel Rochman. Booklist 98, no. 2 (September 15, 2001): 221. Taylor discusses the publication of The Land and the characters featured therein.