So What Are You Reading?

Reviews of Books.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Tobacco Road

Tobacco Road by Erskine Caldwell
Tobacco Road is Erskine Caldwell's classic about the poverty of farmers in the American Southeast during the Depression. Jeeter Lester is a typical Georgia farmer: his grandfather owned a plantation, and his father was a sharecropper. He just wants to plant cotton as the spring is coming on, but he has no education, no food, no land, no credit, and no hope. All he has left is faith in God and an instinctual desire to farm the land as he lives for free in an abandoned shack on a deserted farm.

While Jeeter blames God, Caldwell blames Jeeter's problems on rich people who have withdrawn their financial support of the rural farmers, leaving them poor, hungry and illiterate. At the end of the book Lov says "It looks like the Lord don't care about crops being raised no more like He used to, or He would be more helpful to the poor. He could make the rich people lend out their money, and stop holding it up. I can't figure how they got hold of all the money in the country, anyhow. Looks like it ought to be spread out among everybody."

It is this callous indifference of the Southern rich to the poor people of their states that makes this book seem relevant in my mind to modern readers. Once again today we have rich people in power gutting the enlightened policies that helped raise the Depression era poor out of their squalid conditions. Will today's politicians create the conditions for a new generation of Jeeter Lesters to suffer in poverty and neglect?

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