Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

If the original title, “The Chronicles of Spalding District,” best describes the structure of the novel, the new title, Fruits of the Earth, best suggests its theme. The title phrase is drawn from the Bible, specifically Mark 4: “You are lost if you forget that the fruits of the earth belong equally to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.”

The biblical passage reminds readers of the central flaw of Abe’s character. He thinks only in terms of building a new community; he pays little heed to the fruits of his labor, and when he does, it is too late. The theme, however, is not to be viewed as a pessimistic one. In Fruits of the Earth, man is shown as capable of being a “giant in the earth.” The heroic quality of man, however, has its limitations. Determining how the fruits of labor will be divided among the community which earns them must, in Grove’s view, be central, not secondary, to the human endeavor. Grove, however, does not shy away from a realistic portrayal of the ironic, possibly tragic, circumstances of mankind. Often those best capable of creating the new order are also the very people least capable of giving it direction, order, and stability.