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Caldwell, Erskine. (1903 - 1987).

L i f e

- born in Georgia x but: left to Maine > a detachment enabling him to write about the American South objectively

- travelled the South with his father-missionary priest, and experienced a variety of odd jobs during the Great Depression > a direct knowledge of people

- worked as a reporter in the Russian war: a political leftist

W o r k

- reports: war reports and a series of reports about the conditions of the working and unemployed to appeal to the public and force it to social awareness

- novels: use of naturalistic methods, the comic, and the grotesque

- a subject to a heated discussion, frequent charges for obscenity, and very good selling figures

Tobacco Road (1932), God’s Little Acre (1933), and Tragic Ground (1944):

- a loose trilogy

A d  T o b a c c o  R o a d :

- a social novel (the underlying motif of hunger) and a grotesque comedy (e.g. the scene of Jeeter’s stealing his son-in-law’s beet)

- concern: the mental and moral decay accompanying poverty

- form: flashbacks (e.g. history of Jeeter’s decline into poverty), recurrent motif patterns (e.g. Dude’s obsession with the car horn), and recurrent phrases (e.g. Jeeter’s monologues of complaint)

- uses a colloquial language

- an ironic conclusion: Jeeter moves from empty talking to acting (burns the weed on his land) x but: dies in a fire in his house together with his wife


"Look at them two big holes running down into her face—how does she keep it from raining down in there, you reckon?"

"I'll be damned if I know. Maybe she puts cork stoppers in them to keep the water out."

From Tobacco Road (1932).


(Photo: Carl Van Vechten. 1938. Source: Wikimedia Commons).

  • Author

    Erskine (Preston) Caldwell. (1903 - 1987). American.
  • Work

    Novelist. Author of Tobacco Road (1932).
  • Genres

    Southern Renaissance. Naturalism. Regionalism. Grotesque comedy.


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Bercovitch, Sacvan, ed. The Cambridge History of American  Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Cunliffe, Marcus. The Literature of the United States. London: Penguin, 1991.

Lauter, Paul, ed. The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Lexington: D. C. Heath, 1994.

McQuade, Donald, gen.ed. The Harper American Literature. New York: Harper & Collins, 1996.

Ruland, Richard, Malcolm Bradbury. Od  puritanismu k postmodernismu. Praha: Mladá fronta, 1997.

Vančura, Zdeněk, ed. Slovník spisovatelů: Spojené státy americké. Praha: Odeon, 1979.


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