(Masterpieces of American Literature)

God’s Little Acre, published on the heels of Tobacco Road, appeared in 1933 to favorable reviews and a highly publicized fracas with the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice that focused enormous public attention on the new novel. Here Caldwell brought in more concentrated form many of the ideas that had interested him in the earlier book. Again he sought to explain that “feeling,” trust in oneself and in God—a state very similar to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s self-reliance—is the natural goal of humankind.

In God’s Little Acre, as in Tobacco Road, Caldwell treads an uneasy line between preaching that a divinity waits inside human beings to be freed and showing humans at their most irrational. In other words, he is never quite sure if he is a romantic who believes that humans are limitless or a naturalist who sees them as helpless victims of economic forces, their emotions, and their biology.

In depicting Will Thompson, the visionary leader, Caldwell resorts to an even more poetic style than he used in describing Jeeter’s love for the soil, one that recalls Caldwell’s early ambitions as a poet and his impressionistic prose poem The Sacrilege of Alan Kent, privately printed in 1936, though written in stages much earlier. When Will Thompson reluctantly appears at Ty Ty Walden’s farm to help his father-in-law in his foolish search for gold, Caldwell’s episodic story takes an...

(The entire section is 494 words.)


(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Ty Ty Walden and his sons, Shaw and Buck, have been digging holes on their Georgia farm for fifteen years in search of gold, without success. Ty Ty decides to bring back an albino to find the gold, ignoring a plea for food from the two black men who farm his land. Ty Ty is a man with gold fever and does not have time for anything else. The father has set aside “God’s little acre” to give the church whatever money it produces, but he moves the acre with each new hole to avoid giving the gold to a preacher. Pluto Swint, a sheriff’s candidate, and Darling Jill, who rejects his offers of marriage, go to Carolina to bring her sister Rosamond and her millworker husband, Will Thompson, back to help dig, because he is out on strike.

At Rosamond’s, her husband Will, drunk, announces he is going to have Buck’s wife, Griselda, whom Ty Ty has said is a perfect female. Will tells his protesting wife it is all in the family. Rosamond apologizes for her husband and forgives his remark. Later, Will says he will soon turn on the power at the mill and the workers will run it. In the morning, with Rosamond gone, Darling Jill gets in bed with Will. Rosamond catches them and blisters both with a hair brush. Rosamond grabs a pistol and fires between Will’s legs. He jumps out the window and runs naked down the street. Rosamond and Darling Jill weep and console each other. Back in borrowed pants, Will, forgiven by his wife, agrees to go dig.

They pass through the city where Jim Leslie, Ty Ty’s son, gone from home fifteen years, lives in luxury with his society wife. Ty Ty takes his dying wife to see the son, and he turns them away. Back at the farm, Ty Ty shows Dave Dawson, the albino forced to be the gold diviner, off to the others. Ty Ty and Will catch Darling Jill and Dave together on the ground that night. Rosamond and Griselda make the men leave the lovers alone. Buck and Shaw have a fight with Will because he calls them “clodhoppers,” and Buck accuses the “lint-head” of looking at Griselda. Ty Ty stops the fight and asks for family peace. At Will’s suggestion, Ty Ty and his entire family drive to see Jim Leslie in the city to borrow money. Ty Ty, Darling Jill, and Griselda slip into Jim’s house and surprise him. Jim stares at Griselda as Ty Ty ridicules him for marrying a less pretty wife who has gonorrhea. Jim protests that his money is tied up in real estate, and his evicted tenants’ furniture is still unsold, but he finally gives his father some money and tells him to start raising crops instead...

(The entire section is 1036 words.)