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God's Little Acre

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Like Tobacco Road, this novel chronicles the final decline of a poor white family in rural Georgia. Exhorted by their patriarch Ty Ty, the Waldens ruin their land by digging it up in search of gold. Complex sexual entanglements and betrayals lead to a murder within the family that completes its dissolution. Juxtaposed against the Waldens' obsessive search is the story of Ty Ty's son-in-law, a cotton mill worker in a nearby town who is killed during a strike.First published in 1933, God's Little Acre was censured by the Georgia Literary Commission, banned in Boston, and once led the all-time best-seller list, with more than ten million copies in print.

224 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1933

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About the author

Erskine Caldwell

234 books194 followers
Erskine Preston Caldwell was an American author. His writings about poverty, racism and social problems in his native South won him critical acclaim, but they also made him controversial among fellow Southerners of the time who felt he was holding the region up to ridicule.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 249 reviews
Profile Image for Guille.
784 reviews1,746 followers
May 18, 2023

Ya no tengo ninguna duda de que los personajes de Caldwell inspiraron a los creadores de Homer Simpson. Si en El camino del tabaco era Jeeter Lester, aquí nos las tenemos que ver con Ty Ty Walden, un Homer cuya venenosa gracia radica en la enorme diferencia que existe entre el mundo que él lleva en la cabeza y la realidad, así como por la forma en la que, por el “requeteputo infierno” , ambas versiones acaban confluyendo. Un idiota, aunque no tanto, supremacista, machista y de buen corazón a pesar de las muchas barbaridades que piensa, dice y hace.
“El misterio de la vida humana no era ni por asomo tan oscuro para él como para la mayoría, y le asombraba que los demás no lo vieran tan claro como él.”
Muestra de todo ello es esa parcela de un acre de su propiedad que reservó para Dios en el mismo momento en el que compró las tierras con la promesa de entregar a la Iglesia todo lo que esta produjera. Bien es verdad que la Iglesia nunca ha recibido nada. Ty Ty nunca dispuso del tiempo necesario para explotarla. También es verdad que cambiaba la parcela de sitio cada vez que precisaba de ello y precisó muy a menudo. Llevaba más de quince años buscando oro en sus tierras, sin que el fracaso continuado hubiera menguado sus esperanzas de éxito.

Sí, Ty Ty sufre la fiebre del oro, “esto es un hecho”, una fiebre que no atiende a razones y que le empuja a llenar de agujeros su propiedad, subsistiendo gracias a la explotación de sus apareceros negros. Tal locura le llevó a secuestrar a un albino, seres que, todo el mundo sabe, poseen excelentes cualidades para la búsqueda del oro. Pero no es esta la única fiebre que se representa en la novela, y aunque también se plasma con toda su crudeza la fiebre capitalista que no respeta vidas en busca del máximo beneficio, la otra gran fiebre que sufren los protagonistas de esta novela, tanto masculinos como femeninos, es la fiebre sexual.
“Alguien nos ha jugado una mala pasada. Dios nos puso en cuerpos de animales, pero quiso que nos comportáramos como personas. Ese fue el principio de todos los males. Si Él nos hubiera creado como somos, y no nos hubiera llamado personas, hasta el más tonto de nosotros sabría vivir… No puede hacer ambas cosas, sólo una o la otra. O vivir como nos crearon, y sentir lo que se es por dentro, o vivir como dicen los predicadores y morir por dentro… Dios creó chicas bonitas y creó hombres, y con eso bastaba. Cuando uno toma a una mujer o a un hombre e intenta quedárselo sólo para él, no va a encontrar más que problemas y dolor el resto de sus días.”
Los hombres dan rienda suelta a sus pulsiones lujuriosas, las mujeres las precisan, y lo que podría ser muy simple se vuelve muy complicado. “Tan cierto como que dios creó los Cielos, la Tierra y las manzanitas verdes.”
Profile Image for Howard.
339 reviews244 followers
July 16, 2018
What William Faulkner implies, Erskine Caldwell records. -- Chicago Tribune

Caldwell writes with a full-blooded gutsy vitality that makes him akin to the truly great. -- San Francisco Chronicle

At one time God's Little Acre (1932) was the most popular novel ever published, selling a reported fourteen million copies. But in the process, the book ignited a firestorm of controversy, leading to numerous efforts to suppress it.

A year earlier, Caldwell's Tobacco Road was published. It became a runaway best-seller after it was adapted as a stage play. When the play ended its long run years later, it was the longest-running play in Broadway's history. The play spurred book sales and eventually ten million copies were sold.

Caldwell's portrayal of poor white southern tenant farmers who had been exploited by their landlords outraged many southerners and received mixed reviews from critics. There were also charges that Tobacco Road's explicit sexual scenes constituted obscenity and it was banned from many libraries, including in his hometown, and efforts were made to suppress it elsewhere.

That was only the beginning. God's Little Acre was even more controversial.

Once again Caldwell wrote about the dire straits of poor white rural people who when faced with choices rarely chose the right one. But it also focuses on southern textile mill hands who are exploited by their employers. At one plant the workers strike for higher wages and a shorter work week, but because they are deprived of union protection the owners lock them out and shut down the mill.

There is no doubt that Caldwell was influenced by several strikes by southern textile workers that occurred in the late '20's and early '30's, strikes that were in response to the fact that they were the lowest paid textile workers in the nation.

While Caldwell again presented his story as a curious combination of black humor and tragedy, a combination that confuses critics -- not to mention readers -- God's Little Acre became very serious -- deadly serious -- when it turned from the humorous efforts of Ty Ty Walden and his sons to find gold on their farm to an attempt by Ty Ty's son-in-law to forcibly re-open the textile plant that has kept him and his co-workers unemployed for a year and a half.

The sexual scenes in God's Little Acre are even more explicit than in Tobacco Road. And while they are relatively mild by today's standards, they were not mild by the standards of that day.

In 1933, Caldwell and his publisher, Viking Press, were hauled into court on a charge of disseminating pornography. It was reported that more than sixty writers, editors, and literary critics rallied to his support. Caldwell's defense was that if his book was obscene it was because the truth was obscene. The judge ruled in his favor, declaring that the book was literature and not pornography. However, that did not deter other efforts to suppress the book. But what would-be book banners never seem to learn is that all that publicity spurs sales and the novel became not only Caldwell's biggest seller, but one of the biggest ever.

The book was still very controversial many, many years later and that is why I tucked my copy inside my lit book during my sophomore year in high school. I knew that it was going to be a lot more interesting than my assigned reading. Well, I must confess that it wasn't just the controversy. It was also the lurid cover featuring a scantily-clad, well-endowed young lady on the cover of the paperback re-issue that I possessed. But that's another story.

You probably already know the meaning of the book's title by now, but if not, I don't wish to be a spoiler. I'll let the publisher's blurb describing the book do that.
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,973 reviews1,984 followers
September 26, 2016


Open Road Media
$1.99 Kindle edition, available now

Rating: 3.75* of five

The University of Georgia Says: Like Tobacco Road, this novel chronicles the final decline of a poor white family in rural Georgia. Exhorted by their patriarch Ty Ty, the Waldens ruin their land by digging it up in search of gold. Complex sexual entanglements and betrayals lead to a murder within the family that completes its dissolution. Juxtaposed against the Waldens' obsessive search is the story of Ty Ty's son-in-law, a cotton mill worker in a nearby town who is killed during a strike.First published in 1933, God's Little Acre was censured by the Georgia Literary Commission, banned in Boston, and once led the all-time best-seller list, with more than ten million copies in print. (This is the edition I read in 2012, which has a foreword by Lewis Nordan that I consider very important to read.)

Open Road Media Says: Caldwell’s blockbuster bestseller: In the Depression-era Deep South, destitute farmer Ty Ty Walden struggles to raise a family on his own

Single father and poor Southern farmer Ty Ty Walden has a plan to save his farm and his family: He will tear his fields apart until he finds gold. While Ty Ty obsesses over his fool’s quest, his sons and daughters search in vain for their own dreams of instant happiness—whether from money, violence, or sex.

God’s Little Acre is a classic dark comedy, a satire that lampoons a broken South while holding a light to the toll that poverty takes on the hopes and dreams of the poor themselves.

This ebook features an illustrated biography of Erskine Caldwell including rare photos and never-before-seen documents courtesy of the Dartmouth College Library.


My Review: First published in 1933, when the author was a mere slip of a thirty-year-old, this novel starts in a hole and keeps digging deeper and deeper. Literally, not metaphorically. Well, literally AND metaphorically.

Ty Ty and his sons are poor white Southern Americans in the grimmest economic times of the 20th century. There was revolution brewing because of the depth of the economic crisis, and the complete absence of any safety net for anyone at all. Ty Ty and his boys, like modern-day conservatives, are digging for gold in their unpromising Georgia home's unyielding land, and finding lots of dirt and not much else. The womenfolk are trying to keep food on the table and as many rapists as possible outside. The ones at home, well, we all have our crosses to bear, don't we?

Since the land's being dug up for gold instead of farmed for food, the boys go off to work in the textile mills. Yes Virginia, there once was a textile industry in the USA. Now it's all in Pakistan, where a couple dollars a month is a (barely) living wage. Mill owners naturally want to keep their costs down to maximize profits, and families are going hungry to make sure the rich get richer (is this sounding familiar?), until the unions come to town. With predictable results.

There's death, there's misery, there's hard work followed by failure, there's more misery, the end.

And what an end! What a beautiful piece of writing this is, and how very grim the picture it paints in its simple shapes and clear colors. There is nothing unclear or muddy about the book, except the minds of the characters, and that is by the author's design.

The search for gold isn't as stupid as it sounds. The Georgia north was Cherokee country until white folks found gold in them thar hills and booted the native inhabitants off the land. In the novel, some few flakes are found, but never enough to do what Ty Ty wants, which is free him and his family from want and dependence on others. It works well as a metaphor for the frayed and threadbare Murrikin dream, too: Keep working keep working keep working and the rewards will (not) come! Or if they come, at what cost, and ultimately to what end?

The title, God's Little Acre, refers to Ty Ty's gift of one acre of his farmland to God to support the church. But because Ty Ty wants gold for himself and his family, he moves the location of the acre at will, so he'll be sure not to give his gold away. Not so unfamiliar here, either, is it?

Murder, betrayal, lust, rage, and that's all before we get to the workplace! Is it any wonder this book was called obscene by the forces of reaction? It *was* obscene! The horrible exploitive relationships in every single nook and cranny of the world the characters inhabit is obscene. The dreadful ignorance, the grinding and maliciously intentional poverty, all of it obscene!

Sadly, with the slow withering of liberalism, the story's outlines are rapidly recrudescing in the modern Murrika being carved from the living flesh of the unwashed masses too drugged on the crack of an American Dream they will never, ever attain by Lotto or hard work or virtue rewarded. The horror is we've been here before, and a few brave and good men tried to steer us away from this hideous abyss. And here we are, back again.

Sick-making, isn't it? Read the book, and use it as a cautionary tale.
Profile Image for Teresa.
Author 8 books817 followers
June 26, 2015
Yes, this is the cover of the edition I read, and it's both right and wrong: the house should not be a wooden shack; the woman was not wearing a mini-dress (or slip) or high heels; and the hair of the woman on the bed should be brown.

In the comments section of the last book I finished, Zola's Nana, my friend Howard (and Erskine Caldwell expert) said its theme would segue nicely into this one. He was right of course, especially with its depiction of sexuality. He said it was the first time he'd linked the two authors (Caldwell was born the year after Zola died and in a vastly different kind of place than Paris), but a blurb by the San Francisco Chronicle included with this edition agrees.

The striking workers at the cotton mill evoked another recently finished book, Neel Mukherjee's The Lives of Others, another depressing reminder that worldwide social and economic injustices have not gone away and probably never will. The patriarch Ty Ty with his never-ending digging foresees a Beckettian protagonist, or perhaps harkens back to a Quixotian one.

As with Tobacco Road, what Caldwell believes is ambiguous. Is he advocating free love, a surrendering to our animal nature, the suppression of those instincts being the root cause of tragic conflicts? I doubt it. And though it may not seem so in the beginning, Caldwell affords the characters here more dignity than those of Tobacco Road. He portrays the ignorance and inherent racism, but also points to small growths, as when Ty Ty realizes the young albino man is actually a person.

As with the end of Tobacco Road, Caldwell displays a lyricism he uses sparingly, and thus to great effect. It's in the description of the sameness of the yellow houses in the company town; in the son-in-law Will's visions of the "ivy-walled mills", "the bloody-lipped men" and "the girls with eyes like morning-glories"; and in the subversive speech of the two black men near the end.

But what most struck me as I read on is if Caldwell's Tobacco Road can be compared to and contrasted with Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath (which Howard and I did), the same can be done with Steinbeck's East of Eden and this novel, which anticipates the former by almost twenty years. Though not as obvious (Steinbeck is always more obvious), this is a Cain-and-Abel story too. The titles are reminiscent of each other as well, as if God's acre (a wonderful symbol!) is also somewhere east of Eden.
Profile Image for Jessaka.
901 reviews136 followers
September 22, 2018
Speaking of God’s Little Acre, which I don’t wish to do, I had a dream last night that I was sitting in Ty Ty’s 1952 Pontiac, which he could not have owned since they lived in the 1930s, but hey, dreams are like that.

I had been trying to clean up their ol' rusty car, as if that would also clean up their sordid lives. Then I cut a wire near the glove box because it was useless, and one of Ty Ty’s girls said that her husband had planned on fixing it. I said, “He can now just add a new wire.” And then I found a Pontiac Repair Manual and began reading it. Asking for a piece of paper and a pen, I decided that I would write a review on the car manual, but I woke up after writing just a few lines.

I disliked this book so you know that the last thing I wanted to do was dream about those people, which I may as well tell you are NOT like any hillbillies I have met, but I am sure they are out there somewhere.

Thank God it was only a 200 pager. Why did I read it? Well, when I was a teenager my mom took away his other book that I was reading, “Tobacco Road,” and I had read it again when I was in my early 30s, but I had forgotten how repulsive it was. My mom was right for once in her life, and she may have been right about many other things, but I don’t recall. I just know that taking that book away from me imprinted it into my mind, and I was going to read it someday. I am surprised that I didn’t check it out again and hide it like some kids would do.

And why did the librarians allow me to check it out in the first place? It should have been banned from anyone under 30. Why would anyone want to read about other people’s sordid lives? Well, that is just it. We humans sit and watch stupid soap operas, and the rancid lives of Roseanne and her kids. We listen to the news. Gee, I can complain a lot when I am half awake.

So what is this book about? Well, I had another review going yesterday that was a parody of the book and all because I didn’t really want to talk about the book that much. It doesn’t deserve my trying to tell you what it is all about or maybe it does. Maybe it is that I don’t feel that I deserve to put myself through it after reading the hobnobbing thing. Wow! I just pulled a word I never use out of my head and didn’t even know and had to look it up. Hobnob. And it was the right word to use.

So here is what I had written:

He was standing out in my yard with a shovel in his hand. His orange face looked like a sliced cantaloupe with two seedy eyes peering at me. I thought to run, but instead I yelled, “What are y’all doing in my yard with that shovel?”

It spoke: I am digging for gold.

Me: I hear that y’alls been digging 20 foot holes all over America, ruining everything ya touch, and now y’alls want to ruin our land? Y’alls crazy. And where’s all those people y’all hired? I heard that they all fell into holes that they couldn’t get out of? I also heard tell it that y’alls been chasing tail all over our country when ya ain’t been digging holes. Well, I’ll just watch ya slip into a hole that ya can’t get out of.

It spoke: You’ll see. I am going to make our land great again, just as soon as I find the gold.

Me: I’m a telling y’all, we don’t have any gold. I know, because I saw what came up when our groundhog was out back digging a hole for her babies. All we have is no good rocks, plastic garbage bags and tin cans. Y’all might run into an old car part or a washing machine, but we don’t have any gold! And when ya’lls finished we will have to clean up your mess, and it won’t be easy. But I am telling y’all now, digging in Cherokee County ain’t duck soup. It will break y’alls back. But personally, I don’t think y’all have the ability to do what you think y’alls doing, so I’m going sit over yonder there and just watch.

Walks away mumbling: That cattywampus. He’s fat as a tick and windy as a bag full of farts.

And that is it for me. The truth in this story lies in the dream and the groundhog. Those thingst really did happen.

Note: After all has been said and done, this was actually a very entertaining read with a moral at the end.
Profile Image for R.W. Ridley.
Author 10 books58 followers
October 25, 2012
It is quite possible that God’s Little Acre has now become my favorite book. It’s inspired me to read more of Erskine Caldwell’s novels. I can’t believe no one has recommended him to me before. He is a master at the art of character development. If you read it expecting your standard story structure of introduction, conflict and conclusion, you’ll be disappointed. Caldwell somehow manages to create a compelling story that centers on character development through conflict after conflict. Ty Ty is desperate to find gold on his property. Will is desperate to turn the power on at the mill. Pluto is anxious about counting votes for the upcoming election for sheriff. Darling Jill is desperate to sow her wild oats. Every man is desperate to ravage Griselda. The book is a boiling caldron of desperation and sexual tension.

There are no hidden messages in this book. The book gets its title from Ty Ty’s offering to God. He has set aside a single acre on his land and dedicated it to God. Should he strike gold on that acre, all of it would go to the church. Ty Ty relocates the acre whenever he wants to dig in God’s little acre because he doesn’t want to risk giving his ‘lode’ to the church.

This book was published in 1933 so it is full of racially insensitive language and stereotypes. Women are nothing more than sexual objects. Part of that is the era in which it was written, and the region in which it is written about. Part of it is Caldwell’s writing philosophy. I found an old interview in The Paris Review with Caldwell where he is asked whether or not he has control over his characters. This is his answer;

“I have no influence over them. I’m only an observer, recording. The story is always being told by the characters themselves. In fact, I’m often critical, or maybe ashamed, of what some of them say and do—their profanity or their immorality. But I have no control over it.”

As a writer, I totally agree with this approach to writing. You can’t censor your characters even if your beliefs are in opposition to theirs. If you do, then you’re not writing an honest story. Life can be ugly and unfair. As a writer, you have to allow the grotesque to be told.

BTW – Caldwell received a lot of grief in his life for the way he depicted the south. Southerner’s hated that he focused on the poverty and ignorance. Margaret Mitchell publicly criticized him, which is odd because I’ve always considered Scarlett O’Hara to be one of the great sociopaths in American literature, but I digress. I bring this particular criticism up because if reality TV has taught us anything it is that Caldwell was dead on with his depiction of the south. I’ve never seen the show, but I’ve seen clips of Honey Boo Boo online and there are definitely shades of God’s Little Acre in that family. I’ve lived in the south for 35 years now, and I can say with great confidence that Caldwell was spot on.

In short, this book is a classic that should be required reading for anyone who aspires to be a writer.
Profile Image for Josh.
306 reviews160 followers
December 25, 2022
(3.3) Just like with 'Tobacco Road', Caldwell stereotypes the Southern family and makes them sound as unintelligent and feral as any group of people at the time (1920's-1930's), yet still puts in enough drama and emotion to make you feel sorry for them. Born and raised in the South myself, the writing made me cringe, laugh and sometimes have anger towards the patriarch, Ty Ty. Even though I said this was stereotypical, I can see some truths in its parts and also relate to it personally.

I'd recommend 'Tobacco Road' rather than this one, if someone asked my opinion, but overall I'm glad I read it.
Profile Image for WJEP.
250 reviews16 followers
February 14, 2022
This Depression-era dramedy is jam-packed with hackneyed country-bumpkin and farmer's-daughter humor. But I'm being unfair, because I think Erskine Caldwell invented this shtick. Nevertheless, as a kid, I already met Jethro and Goober and Elly May, Mary Ann, Daisy, Chrissy, etc.

The last quarter of the book is darker and a bit of a head-scratcher. You learn plenty about mill-town misery and the joy of rape.

Writing about poor folk can make you many unwanted friends and enemies. J. Edgar Hoover thought Caldwell was a rabid commie. It might be a disappointment to some, but there is nothing subversive in this book as sure as God makes little green apples.
Profile Image for Shaun.
Author 4 books178 followers
December 13, 2014
Another odd little gem from Erskine Caldwell. Just finished reading Tobacco Road, which I enjoyed and so was anxious to read this, and alas was not disappointed.

Interestingly, I can't exactly pinpoint what I liked, which makes me like it that much more.

The story and the characters aren't meant to be taken at face value and in that way, this reads more like a fable/fairy tale than it does anything else. As with Tobacco Road, the characters are caricatures and the story itself borders on the absurd. Yet, there's something that resonates so clearly as true, so much so that it's hard not look for the deeper meaning.

Interestingly, reading through many reviews, it seems to speak differently to different people, and not at all to some.

So here's my take:

Though filled with religious undertones, I didn't get that this was a statement on religion outside of its cultural context. I don't think this was a comment about race or the role or value of women nor a scathing commentary necessarily directed only at the South (though he tackles specific issues present at the time it was written). I also wouldn't reduce this to soft porn as some reviews I have read do.

If anything, I felt this was a story about man and his struggle against societal forces (whatever those might be), and thus had and still has far reaching implications.

You have the poor, struggling farmers, specifically Ty Ty with his unending search for gold and his odd appreciation for his daughter-in-law's beauty. You have the cotton mills and their use and abuse of workers. You have members of a family struggling against each other, yet simultaneously supporting each other. You have a distinction and subsequent tension between the mill workers who make their living off of machinery and the farmers who still work off the land. You have the little men against the big corporations. You have the base desires, food and sex, and man's basic need for purpose and dignity. And then you have this all-too-true social hierarchy in which the repressed are all too happy to repress others when given the chance.

In short, you have civilized animals.

This is one of those books that you have to ponder long after the fact. I would love to see this performed live, as amidst all the profound ideas is a humor that would be even more obvious on stage.

Bottom line: I think this is going on my favorites shelf.

Would recommend this to anyone who appreciates well-crafted and relevant writing, and willing to dig beyond the surface. Unlike Ty Ty, you're bound to find gold.

A favorite excerpt:

Not really a spoiler but to keep the review manageable...

Profile Image for Literary Chic.
212 reviews3 followers
February 19, 2017
I wanted to like God's Little Acre. I read that it had been banned in its day so I immediately wanted to read it. Unfortunately, it didn't get far with me.

The main plot has the patriarch and his poor family digging for gold on a Georgian farm. Additionally, there's a decent storyline about unfair labor practices in a mill. On those two main plots, lean the most base, over-sexed adult characters you may ever read.

In the last couple of chapters, the sexual antics cease and Caldwell has the protagonist shift to a wise patriarch. There is a BRILLIANT conversation towards the end between the patriarch and a daughter-in-law. Although there is so much truth in the patriarch's soliloquy, I think there must have been better ways to reach the moral of the story than the route Caldwell took.

Chapters 18-20: 4 stars
Chapters 1-17: 2 stars
Profile Image for Jayakrishnan.
496 reviews183 followers
December 1, 2022
"It's a pity all folks ain't got the sense dogs are born with."

The trouble with people is that they try to fool themselves into believing that they’re different from the way God made them. You go to church and a preacher tells you things that deep down in your heart you know ain’t so. But most people are so dead inside that they believe it and try to make everybody else live that way. People ought to live like God made us to live. When you sit down by yourself and feel what’s in you, that’s the real way to live. It’s feeling… People have got to feel for themselves as God made them to feel.

God's Little Acre is a raw and disturbing account of a family whose members live on pure instinct. Sexual politics among a share cropping family as they hunt for gold. Their superstitions, beliefs, lusts and passions. Family patriarch Ty-Ty Walden openly lusts for and hits on his daughter-in-law Griselda in front of his son Buck. Ty-Ty's rambunctious daughter Darling Jill sleeps with her sister Rosamund's husband, Will, in front of her fiancee, the pot-bellied Pluto. Then they all make peach ice cream together and eat it. Will and Jim Leslie (another brother) try to move in on Griselda, sending Buck on a hypermasculin trail of violence. Griselda was played by the gorgeous Tina Louise in the Anthony Mann film based on this book.

I wonder whether Caldwell was a bit of a feminist because Griselda in Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales is an utterly submissive woman who bows down to her husbands whims and fancies. In God's Little Acre, Griselda is a woman who cannot contain her passion for the raw power of Will, her sister in laws husband. She submits to Will's desires. So maybe Caldwell was alluding to a different kind of submissiveness.

I guess Caldwell was the inspiration for Harry Crews and Rob Zombie. This is an erotic novel. The sub plot with Will and his cohorts longing to take over the shut down factory and restart the machines was a bit of a drag for me. What I was really interested in were the shenanigans within the Walden family. The book foregrounds the raw power of working class American males and the lasciviousness of their women. Was Caldwell celebrating these creatures that lived purely by instinct? I think to a great extent, yes. Even though the tragic ending might suggest otherwise.
Profile Image for Kelli.
117 reviews6 followers
November 25, 2012
My favourite part of this book is the very last sentence. I don't remember what the sentence was about, I was too busy celebrating that id come to the end of this soap opera of a novel to notice the content.
Honestly, this is the worst book I've read in a long time. In fact I can't remember reading a book to the end that was as disgusting as this one. There was not one likeable character in the entire book. There was no plot or subplot that did not disgust me. Just a thoroughly wretched reading experience.
15 reviews1 follower
March 7, 2008
God's Little Acre is a great exposition on man's relationship with God. We make promises to God--Dedicate our little acre to him--and then move it and change our promise when things don't work out the way we planned. However, this review is an excuse to tell of my meeting Erskine Caldwell.

It was in Klamath Falls, Oregon, in the Waldorf Bar and Grill and pool hall. I was probably about 14 years old. Roger Owens and I used to save a couple of dollars and then hitchhike into Klamath Falls to shoot pool at the Waldorf. I met many interesting characters there; enough to write many novels just describing their lives. One day I was engaged in a conversation with a down and out drunk who had obviously been on a several day binge. After talking for a few minutes, we introduced ourselves. The drunk said, and I am paraphrasing the best to my memory,
"I'm Erskine Caldwell. I'm a writer. Maybe you've heard of me. I wrote God's Little Acre and a bunch of shit like that."

I had read God's Little Acre, so I smiled and said my name is Tom Sanders. Glad to meet you. I patronised this poor delusional drunk, and told the story to my friends later that day. Then, a couple of days later, I read in The Herald and News that Erskine Caldwell had been to Klamath Falls for a book talk and signing. They had a picture of him, and sure enough it was the down-and-out drunk I had talked to for over and hour. I guess Erskine had a bit of a problem with alcohol, and used to disappear for weeks at a time, ending up on skid row. So it goes. Oh--another interesting bit of trivia: Erskine Caldwell was a heavy smoker and died of emphysema. He is is buried in Scenic Hills Memorial Park in Ashland, Oregon. Since he died in Arizona, I don't know why they brought his body to Ashland. Perhaps it was the wish of his fourth and final wife.
Profile Image for Ned.
302 reviews128 followers
May 13, 2015
Picked this up in a little independent bookstore while visiting Chapel Hill, NC, to have a little southern memento in the form of a little old (but well preserved) Signet pocket sized paperback. I think I payed $3 in cash. A strange little tale of the south (Augusta Georgia) where Ty Ty (the elder) digs hole after hole in vain trying to find gold. He harangues and bullies and tricks his adult children into his pitiful endeavor. This book has all the strangeness of O’Conner or McCuthers yet is written in a simple, childish style with mature themes. Published in 1939, it is hard to image these simpletons exist (of course they did, and do), but they have a native, cunning sexual intelligence. It is about farmers and working men, and their love/hatred of labor control and capitalism. But the obsession is the primacy of 0/sex, as when Ty Ty opines unabashedly and openly about his daughter in law:

p. 78. “I ain’t ashamed of nothing”, Ty Ty said heatedly. “I reckon Griselda is just about the prettiest girl I ever did see. There ain’t a man alive who’ve ever seen a finer looking pair of rising beauties as she’s got. Why? Man alive! They’re that pretty it makes me feel sometimes like getting right down on my hands and knees like these old hound dogs you see chasing after a flowing bitch. You just ache to get down and lick something. That’s the way, and its God’s own truth as he would tell it himself if he could talk like the rest of us. You don’t mean to sit there and say you’ve seen them, do you?” Will asked, winking at Griselda and Rosamond. “Seen them? Why, man alive! I spend all my spare time trying to slip up on her when she ain’t looking to see them more. Seen them? Man alive! Just like a rabbit likes clover! When you’ve seen them once, that’s the only start. You can’t sit calm and peaceful and think of nothing else until you see them again. And every time you see them it makes you feel just a little bit more like that old hound dog I was talking about. You’re sitting out there in the yard somewhere all calm and pleased and all of a sudden you’ll get a notion in your head. You sit there, telling it to go away and let you rest, and all the time there’s something getting up inside of you. You can’t stop it. Because you can’t put your hands on it, you can’t talk to it, because you can’t make it here.

The women are equally base, and sensual, as when the beautiful Griselda enjoys the strangeness of life in town, and feels the pulse of humanity and its crawling essence:
p. 132. Through the open windows the soft summer night floated into the room. It was a soft night, and it was warm, but with the evening air there was something else that excited Griselda. She could hear sounds, voices, murmurs, that were like none she had ever heard before. A woman’s laughter, a child’s excited cry, and the faint gurgle of a waterfall somewhere below all came into the room together. There was a feeling in the air of living people just like herself, and this she had never felt before. The new knowledge that all those people out there, all those sounds, were as real as she herself was made her heart beat faster. Never had the noises of Augusta sounded like these, in the city there were other sounds of another race of people. It was gorillas.
The men revere the raw power of women, and fear them for their secret knowledge and power. The hapless Pluto observes the powerful Will, as he indulges his passion with purposeful ignorance of the consequences… he follows his desire like a wild animal, oblivious to bystanders:

p. 140. Beside her, Pluto was bewildered. He had not felt the things she had. She knew no man would. Pluto was speechless with wonder at Will and Griselda, but he was unmoved. Darling Jill had felt the surge of their lives pass through the room while Will stood before them tearing Griselda’s clothes to shreds, and Rosamond had. But Pluto was a man, and he would never understand how they felt. Even Will, who brought it, had acted only with the guidance of his want with Griselda. She was stunning, standing in the windowsill naked.

A strange aspect of this book was the exact repetition of passages, for example the masses of young ladies in the mill, over and over…

p. 149. It looked as if everything would come true. Here in the millyard now were the mild eyed valley girls with erect breasts behind the mill windows they would look like morning glories.

The fear of urban life, represented by Pluto’s terror, as he hopes to return to the country:

p. 156. He had become afraid of the man beside him, he was afraid the man would suddenly turn with a knife in his hand and cut his throat from ear to ear. He knew then that he was out of place in a cotton mill town. The country, back at home in Marion, was the place for him to go as quickly as possible. He promised himself he would never again leave it if only he could get back safely this time.

The alpha males rule in this tale, as the beautiful Griselda feels the power in the aging Ty Ty, and nostalgically connects to him:

p. 162. I would have stayed with Will the rest of my life. Because when a man does that to a woman, Pa, it makes love so strong nothing in the world can stop it. It must be God in people to do that. It’s something, anyway, I have it now. Ty Ty patted her hand. He could think of nothing to say, because there beside him sat a woman who knew as he did a secret of living. After awhile he breathed deeply, and lifted his head from her shoulder. “He’ll never learn, Pa, Buck just isn’t like you and Will. A man has to be born that way at the start.”

Truthfully, I’ve never read so much misogyny and crudity – an uncivilized ragtag family with no scruples or education. They remind me of why we need the constraints of religion – to elevate the baseness of such people. But the book is told seductively, in a kind of secret code that I just could not seem to unravel. It was entertaining, and the mystery of these people (who are inexplicably never described in terms of age or physical appearance).
I’ll read Caldwell again, and I’ll see what others have to say about God’s little acre (a metaphor for tithing, and how man tries to trick and cheat the almighty to line his own pockets).
Profile Image for Henry.
667 reviews34 followers
March 7, 2023
One of the best selling novels of all time. A true American classic of poverty, greed and most of all, lust. The historical literary value alone of this book is immense.
Profile Image for Pamela.
1,421 reviews77 followers
March 31, 2014
I'm a big fan of Southern Gothic, and this is pretty much as good as it gets. Hard to believe it was written in the early 30s. Very hard. Caldwell's style may be a bit off-putting to some--I've read reviews that slam him for the repetition of images and phrases, but if you just sit back and let the words flow over you, it's mesmerizing.

Much like Things Fall Apart the story seems like nothing more than a simple fable while you are reading it. It's afterwards, when you can't get it out of your mind that you realize its true brilliance.
Profile Image for Laura Leaney.
468 reviews106 followers
July 19, 2020
I don't know how to approach writing a proper review for this book. The story contains many elements which might be repulsive to a reader in 2020, racism, sexism, and rather grotesque characterizations of the members of a Southern family circa 1930. I'm not sure I would recommend it to anyone for the purposes of "enjoyment" - but if you happen to be interested in American literature or the writings of Faulkner, O'Connor, Penn Warren, maybe Steinbeck - there is a kind of deeper pleasure in experiencing this particular world, so rich and weird.

The title, God's Little Acre is completely appropriate, despite the lack of traditional morality of the novel's family members. Ty Ty Walden, the patriarch of a "barren southern farm" has put aside one acre of his land for God. He moves this acre (in his mind) all the time if it gets in his way of digging for gold on his own land. And he's been digging for more than 15 years. The place must look like a cratered moon. By the end of the novel, God's Little Acre is under his house (a place he can't dig). The phrase "God's acre" also refers to a cemetery, and when blood is shed on this land, the title's significance becomes clear.

Ty Ty has three sons and two daughters, all influenced by his obsession to strike a "lode" in some way or another. His daughter Rosamond has married a "lint head" over in Horse Creek Valley, South Carolina. Her husband Will Thompson, a textile mill worker, has been left unemployed by the closure of the mill and still pays to live in one of the many yellow "company houses." Thompson is obsessed with revolting against the mill owners and turning "the power on" himself. His desire to be a savior to the people of the Valley, to get the looms and machinery working, are juxtaposed with his brother-in-law, Ty Ty's son Buck, who is a proud man of the land. Buck is busy digging for gold under his father's direction and trying to keep an eye on the most beautiful woman in Georgia, his wife Griselda. Will and Buck's struggles and hatred for each other, like that of Cain and Abel, are symbolized by their desire for the same woman (Buck's wife). Griselda is the catalyst for violence; Buck and Will are not the only men who desire her.

The sex is wild in this book.

And the unbelievable suffocating heat. Ice cream for dinner. Bacon and coffee in the morning.

Matters of race are complex. Ty Ty actually captures an "all white man," a Black albino who lives in the swamp, to force him to conjure the location of the gold. Dave, the albino man, is held at gun point until they forget to keep an eye on him. The Black workers on Ty Ty's farm are not slaves and seem, in some ways, like family. Yet the language of the book is racist. One of them is called "Uncle Felix" and the other is "Black Sam." Their conversation together, while at the bottom of a hole dug on the land, is rife with derision of the family but also speaks of the circumstances of truth:

"Lord, Lord!"
"I was born unlucky."
"Ain't it the truth!"
"Trouble in the house."
"Lord, Lord!"
"One man's dead."
"And trouble in the house."
"The male man's gone."
"He can't prick them no more."
"Lord, Lord!"
"Trouble in the house."
"My mammy was a darky -----"
"My daddy was too ------"
"That white gal's frisky ------"
"Good lord, what to do ------"

There is so much going on in this novel. Like Faulkner's characters, these poor southerners are deeply disturbed, affected by poverty, possible malnutrition, incestuous feelings, powerlessness. I found the writing extraordinarily vivid, and I know this will not be a book I forget easily. Erskine Caldwell created a world in which I felt fully immersed.
Profile Image for B. Tollison.
Author 4 books4 followers
May 4, 2016
Two words: Very base. The characters are all simple, self-centered, and obsessed with having sex, mostly with the exceptionally attractive Griselda. Griselda, like all the women in God's Little Acre, is portrayed as a passive sex object for the men to fight over; which they do, regularly. As a portrait of what gender roles might have been like in the 1930's, and might still be like in some parts of the American South, this dynamic might have some merit, but, since we're only ever given a male's perspective, it's difficult to see past the blatant misogyny. The book is clearly a product of its time, and so I grant it some allowance for that, but it's that misogyny that renders all the women in God's Little Acre as incredibly one dimensional and replaceable, and that is something I'm not so willing to forgive.

The only characters with any depth are the father and protagonist, Ty Ty, and the son in law, Will. For over 15 years, instead of using his farm to grow crops, Ty Ty has been digging massive holes all over his property in search of gold. He occasionally ruminates about God and life, but his philosophising never ventures beyond a simple acceptance of his and others' place in the world and of God's mysterious ways. God's Little Acre refers to a small section of his land of which he has promised to donate the proceeds of anything grown on it to the church. Only he never grows anything and actually continues to shift the piece of nominal land so that he can dig it for gold and not have to subsequently give up what he finds to the church. This is probably the best part of the story for me. A commentary on greed and the tricks people will pull in an attempt to trick their own beliefs and gods. It's a pity the story didn't offer any more of this kind of insight.

Will is one of many cotton mill workers out of work due to a labour and pay dispute. He spends most of his time venting and worrying about getting his job back. Through Will's situation we learn a little about rural life during the great depression and gain some insight into the effects of labour disputes on the working class but beyond that, it doesn't feel like Caldwell was saying much else.

In fact, in one of the later scenes, Will becomes a beacon of antiquated, masculine self-indulgence. He literally tears a woman's clothes off and rips them to shreds in front of her. This apparently has her loins burning so badly (not to mention the loins of one of the on-looking women) that she has no choice but to surrender herself to him. There's nothing in the scene that suggests (at least to me) that Caldwell was trying to say anything other than describing base people carrying out base acts. (Slight spoiler) We don't even get to see inside the head of Will's wife who was also witness to his chest thumping, caveman act, in fact, she doesn't say anything at all and so is rendered almost entirely irrelevant. Just another useless object. (End of slight spoiler)

The fact that everyone's sexual indiscretions (of which there are many) go with virtually no consequence not only renders such acts meaningless, and thus uninteresting to read, but never elevates the story any higher than soap-opera level entertainment.

I found it difficult to sympathise with characters that are so unbelievably simple-minded. They seem incapable of making correct decisions or of caring about anything above food, sex, and (for Ty Ty) digging up gold. Without any other dimensions, I really had no reason to care about what happened to anyone by the end of the story.

Caldwell succeeds in creating a portrait of characters controlled only by their base urges but doesn't actually provide much in the way of insight. It's one thing to point out such banal, circular behaviour, and to put it onto paper, but it's a completely different thing to actually convey the potential depth and substance such acts can impart on the people involved and on us as readers. I'm sure some people could invent symbolism and interpret in any creative number of ways, but I feel that would be looking for meaning where there isn't any, or at least not enough to warrant looking for in the first place.

While there is some humour in God's Little Acre (mostly at the start) it is nowhere near adequate enough to carry the story, unlike in Caldwell's other novel, Tobacco Road. While both novels are written in an almost identical style with similar ideas and characters, at least the family in Tobacco Road are a little more justified in their baseness since they're always on the verge of starvation. Or maybe the only difference between the two novels is that I happened to read Tobacco Road first and so was already tired of Caldwell's style by the time I came to God's Little Acre.

It is a style that is easy to read (much like Steinbeck), but offers little more substance than an episode of Coronation Street.
Profile Image for Paul Gaya Ochieng Simeon Juma.
617 reviews36 followers
September 25, 2015
I have taken quite a while before writing a review on this as I was travelling.

When I picked up this book, I actually didn't know what to expect. But the title is what caught my eye. God's little acre, is a peace of land belonging to Ty Ty, the father to Darling Jill, Buck and Shaw.

He is a poor man who's looking for gold. He goes around digging his land in search of the mineral but doesn't find any. He has however preserved God's little acre, as a sacrifice to God.

Most of his family members think it's a bad idea digging around, rather than putting the land into better use. Something that can actually earn him some income. Ty ty however, is adamant and believes that one day he will strike gold.

There is also some biskering between members of his family. Mainly the row revolves around Griselda, Buck's wife who is a very beautiful dame. He is admired by every male member of Ty ty's family and this causes a lot of distress to her husband buck.

Most of the family members are poor and still live with their father. Only Jim is well of but he's mean and doesn't help any of them.

This a story of a poor family searching for gold, trying to live together, with as little affection towards one another. Tbey are crude and don't care so much about how others feel. This leads eventually to murder.
104 reviews3 followers
April 14, 2020
Too bad most of the authors nowadays do not do character development like they used to do back in the day.
An incredible writer Erskine Caldwell was; he wrote memorable characters. And that's a fact.
I loved the book.
Profile Image for Chris.
165 reviews6 followers
March 3, 2008
perfect southern goth, with one of the best families of all time
Profile Image for Kuszma.
2,273 reviews171 followers
October 25, 2019
Simán el tudom képzelni, hogy ezek az arcok becaplatnak Scarlett O'Haráék farmjára, teleköpködik bagólével a kéziszőttes perzsaszőnyeget, és megpróbálnak kivasalni belőlük 300 dollárt, hogy kihúzzák valahogy a gyapotszüretig. Caldwell Georgia-ja nem szentség, nem kies vidék, hanem a sudribunkók földje – itt a népek már kocsival járnak be a városba, de a házi négereiket még rabszolgának nevezik. Amíg Faulknernél ezek a figurák valahogy a görög tragédiák elemeibe öltöznek (vagy legalábbis a görög tragédiák paródiájaként hatnak), addig Caldwellnél mindez inkább groteszt komédia szánalmas paprikajancsikkal, akik a tudományosság csimborasszójának azt tartják, ha egy albínóval kerestethetik meg a föld mélyén búvó hordalékaranyat. Szóval színtiszta svejki abszurd – legalábbis a regény első fele.

A másodikban azonban az író kisiklatja a sztorit – ha nem is előkészítetlenül, de mindenképpen váratlanul. Először is beemeli a történetbe a szövőmunkások bérharcát, ami (különösen a karizmatikus Will figurájának köszönhetően) meglehetősen heroikus jelleget ad a szövegnek*. De még ennél is nagyobb jelentőségű, ahogy a történetben egyre nagyobb szerepet kap a szexualitás, a mindent elsöprő, mindent maga alá gyűrő testi vágy – a caldwelli univerzumban ez ugyanis az az elem, ami leginkább rokonítja a szereplőket a görög mitológia hőseivel, nyugodtan kijelenthetjük: ez bennük leginkább isteni. A végkifejlet pedig – hát az aztán tényleg egy szophoklészi sorstragédiában is elférne. Szóval meglehetősen eklektikus könyvecskéről van szó, de semmi gond: Caldwell olyan író, akinek határozott mondanivalója van, sőt mi több, ezt kifejezetten szórakoztatóan tudja tálalni.

*És nem mellesleg jelzi, hogy Caldwell a szervezett városi munkásságba inkább helyezi bizalmát, mint a földművesbe – ez egy ilyen szocreál elem, nem baj, van ilyen. A kor Amerikájában a szakszervezeti mozgalmak dicsérete nem annyira az író vonalasságát, mint inkább emberi bátorságát jelezte.
Profile Image for Freddie Sykes .
730 reviews
February 23, 2022
God's Wasted Albino

A good book and a good story.


1. No weeping over Underdogs
2. Clear, straightforward writing style, no Bubbagan's Wake at all, Cormac McJoyce shoulda paid more attention
3. Has an Albino in it


1. Ty Ty suddenly turns into the philosopher Mediocretes or Ben Franklin or someone
2. Unbelievable femme fatale, Mrs. Griswold
3. Unbelievable homme fatale, Will
4. The Albino doesn't figure as important as I'd wanted. There shoulda been more weird Albino lore. I think they're famous for being tetched, so a good Kooks-ex-Machina opportunity was missed.
5. It didn't really have an ending. He shoulda said ""
6. Verbatim repetition gimmick throughout the last half of the book

Moral of the Story: Horniness Doesn't Pay.

But don't take my word for it, Trust the Book Science:

"It. Was. Good." -- Toby Litt

"The End?" -- Ernie Caldwell
Profile Image for L.G. Cullens.
Author 2 books78 followers
July 2, 2020
It must have been in the 1960s that I read this book, but I don't remember it very well. I recall the movie (even Robert Ryan in the starring role) more clearly, which makes my memory of the book less reliable. I seem to remember enjoying the book.
Profile Image for Missy.
564 reviews28 followers
August 28, 2023
God’s Little Acre (1933) is offered for free with Amazon Prime as an e-book along with a couple of other stories as a classic-novels boxed set written by Erskine Caldwell. The other two stories: Tobacco Road (1932), I read in 2019, and Estherville (1949), I have yet to read. Erskine Caldwell was quite the imaginative writer. You will pretty much find all things today considered politically incorrect inside these novels. I guess that’s why I find them so fun and interesting. He loves making fun of the “deep south”.

God’s Little Acre is also a 1958 film, starring Robert Ryan as Ty Ty Walden, Aldo Ray as Will Thompson (Ty Ty’s son-in-law) who gets a little action from both his sister-in-laws; Buddy Hackett as the fat, lazy Pluto Swint running for sheriff and has his eyes and fat hands on Ty Ty’s youngest, slutty daughter, Darling Jill, played by Fay Spain; Jack Lord played Ty Ty’s hot-headed son, Buck, married to the most beautiful woman in the whole wide world, Griselda, played by Tina Louise; and Michael Landon played, Dave, the albino from the swamps who gets a little action with Darling Jill. Can watch for free on YouTube:


This novel is set in the depression-era in rural Marion, Georgia, about 15 miles outside of Augusta. Each character has strong, obsessive traits, which you will see hints of in real life in some folks down south, and maybe in the hillbillies up in the northeast mountains. It’s all about sex and finding that gold.

Ty Ty, the father, is obsessed with gold-fever even though there’s nothing in the world says there’s gold on his property. For the past 15 years, he and two of his boys, Buck and Shaw have dug huge holes 20-30 feet deep and twice as wide throughout his 3-acre piece of land searching for gold. He set aside one little acre for growing cotton to sell, tended by two black sharecroppers, to help get a little money to feed the family over the winter. But, there hasn’t been time for that because they’ve been busy…digging for gold. Ty Ty won’t break dirt on God’s one little acre. That proves to God he’s in it for the good and it proves to God that he has a good heart. But, he also will move that one acre if he feels it’s time to dig there and look for gold. After all, he don’t want to go giving the church the mother-lode. Ty Ty does not believe in magic. He is strictly a “scientific” man, so when they hear about an albino man (played by Michael Landon) living in the swamps nearby that can divine a gold-dig, he sets out to capture him. They are so close to finding that gold, a little divining never hurt, and it was scientific, nothing against God.
Profile Image for sappho_reader.
408 reviews2 followers
October 15, 2014
“There was a mean trick played on us somewhere. God put us in the bodies of animals and tried to make us act like people. That was the beginning of trouble.”

Tobacco Road by Erskine Caldwell left a big impression on me so it was only natural to seek out Caldwell's other books. God’s Little Acre was published just one year after Tobacco Road and while both focus on the rural poor in Georgia during the Great Depression, they are somewhat different in tone. This book was more serious and focused on the failure of man to work the ground (the demise of the sharecropping system) and machinery (cotton mill strike in Carolina). Absent is the violent, absurd in-your-face brutality that was so apparent in Tobacco Road. With that said, there is some glimmer of the absurdity that I was seeking. After all, this is a tale of Ty Ty who has been digging holes on his farm for 15 years to discover gold and kidnaps an albino from his house to act as a conjur without any moral qualms at all! Caldwell's use of overt sexuality earned him a day in court and another place on the banned books list. A good book highlighting the social problems of the era, I was just hoping for more redneck dysfunction.
Profile Image for Frabe.
1,063 reviews39 followers
December 5, 2018
Romanzo del 1933 che negli U.S.A. scandalizzò i puritani. Dentro una storia che vede contrapposti i lavoratori di campagnia – qui dediti perlopiù a cercare nella terra fantomatici filoni d'oro – e i lavoratori di città – più smaliziati, ma alle prese con la crisi industriale –, Caldwell forza la mano sul rapporto uomo-donna esaltando il ruolo delle pulsioni istintive... che sarebbero ben gradite anche lassù in alto: “Se c'è una cosa che Iddio ama nel mondo è di vedere un uomo e una donna innamorati pazzi l'uno dell'altra. Ciò significa, ai Suoi occhi, che il mondo cammina come deve camminare.” C'è dell'esagerazione che lascia perplessi, mentre sicuramente apprezzabili sono la scrittura di Caldwell e la traduzione di Vittorini.
Profile Image for Calzean.
2,612 reviews1 follower
March 17, 2020
This wouldn't be on the MeToo must read books. The men in this family seem to slobber over their wives and sisters and believe it is there right to stare, molest and have their evil ways.
Meanwhile the patriarch Ty Ty is digging hole after hole in the hope to find gold, even though there is no way that his land is either part of some old river or has any lode running through it. He is fundamentally mad and his family all seem to follow him.
So what is it about? Maybe about our relationship with God, maybe about how dirt poor and dirt ignorant many were in the South during the Depression, maybe about man being an animal and he is only happy when he can act so. I dunno but I did enjoy this one.
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