Second Reading.Nathaniel Rich writes on The Daily Beast website, As a comedy, Tobacco Road is a modest failure as a tragedy, it is an abject failure and that the novel is as indelible as a freak show or car crash Dwight Garner on the Slate website called it a greasy hairball of a novel.one of the sickest and most lurid books to have emerged from the literature of the American South Both writers, however, proceed to give the novel a generally positive review Their conflicted response is typical of both critics and readers Experts, however, have ranked it as one of the hundred most significant novels written in English in the 20th century And, especially after its success as a Broadway play, the novel eventually sold ten million copies.Rich goes on to say that Erskine Caldwell is a progenitor of what could be called the degenerate school of American fiction, which I suppose could be called a subgenre of the so called grit lit genre At any rate, it seems that a straight line can be drawn from Caldwell to writers such as Harry Crews, who also attempted to combine tragedy and comedy in their novels Tobacco Road, published in 1932, was meant to be a work of social protest, a condemnation of poverty among the poor whites of the Deep South John Steinbeck wrote about some of the same issues a few years later in The Grapes of Wrath But it is only on the surface that the two books are similar Unlike Steinbeck, Caldwell refused to resort to sentimentality or to imbue his characters with any degree of dignity in coping with their suffering Other than poverty and being dispossessed of their land, Caldwell s Lesters share very little in common with Steinbeck s Joads Most readers, and I include myself, struggle with Caldwell s depiction of the Lesters as being ignorant, selfish, crude, sexually promiscuous, indecent, but also comic figures Caldwell seems to simultaneously sympathize with his characters while at the same time maintaining a disdainful attitude toward them The book is a call for social action to combat poverty, but one that provides no solutions.Caldwell claimed that he wrote the novel as a rebuke of the perfumed moonlight and magnolias literature of the South Well, it was that.And there is this, too it was edited by Maxwell Perkins William Faulkner and Malcolm Cowley admired the book and Saul Bellow thought Caldwell should have been awarded the Nobel Prize. In Palatka, Florida, 36 miles from where I live in St Augustine, the Latimer Arts Center Prairie School of architecture and quite lovely Larimer Arts Center served as the county library from 1930 until 1992 Atop the arched entranceway are the phrases Ignorance Breeds Crime and Knowledge is Power These two phrases have always intrigued me especially since I never thought of Palatka as the center of knowledge in northeast Florida In part, I must admit that comment is due to a local rivalry Doorway of Larimer Arts CenterWith that said we know that reading is an education Reading allows a person to learn about anything and everything This knowledge can be obtained at your local library where readers can find information at their fingertips which, as readers, we already know Larimer Arts Center, Reid St., Palatka, FloridaWith that said, it bothers me to hear comments that readers didn t like the book because it was depressing, sad, dark, and inhumane Even the word ignorance came up the ignorance of the characters There are many other adjectives to describe what s been said by Goodreads.com readers about Tobacco Road but I agree with Melanie Hierholzer who saysI am amazed that so many people on this website just did not get this book. Here s Melanie s excellent review Tobacco Road Knowing the subject of the book and early in my reading, I was looking for a reader who I thought voiced an opinion that might be similar to mine Thankfully I found Melanie s review and we had a great conversation I think every book I ve ever read that was placed during the 1930 s depression had a dark tone The depression was not the best of times for America s economy or the world for that matter and of course, it s citizens Erskine Calwell is considered a naturalistic writer the definition being characters can be studied through their relationships to their surroundings The Theme of the Book is The Land My opinion, of course The land kept the Lester family in food, clothing, and shelter for generations but when the land gradually lost the needed nutrients it grew less and less A much larger land area a plantation, can t recall belonging to the Lesters was sold off gradually by each generation Over time the land simply gave out from being overused with the nutrients gradually depleted from the planting of tobacco and later, cotton The land was all the Lester family had known as poor and illiterate farmers Of course this was prior to any Headstart programs, Food Stamp Programs, any governmental assistance programs whatsoever Jeeter Lester, the patriarch of the family, would not and could not fathom working in the city in one of the cotton mills The cotton mill was where their neighbors migrated to make a living But the Lesters wouldn t leave the only thing they had ever known which was farming the land Every year Jeeter thinks if I can get cotton seeds and guano everything will be fine But of course seeds and fertilizer cost money There s plenty of hopelessness but no money And Jeeter continues to await a windfall of some kind Talking to the shopkeeper asking for credit, Jeeter says You storekeepers won t let us have no credit since Captain John now owner of the land left, and what is we going to do I don t know what s going to happen to me and my folks if the rich don t stop bleeding us They ve got all the money, holding it in the banks, and they won t lend it out unless a man will cut off this arms and leave them there for security The Lesters blame the bankers and the shopkeepers for their plight, their inability to farm the land Boiled fatback once a day I guess can be a little filling when you add some cornbread No, not cornbread, cottonmeal bread because cottonmeal stretches further in the household And lordy, lordy, don t be late for dinner otherwise the table is empty none of that let s save some for Dude the 16 year old son in the family or Grandma Lester It s every man for himself Grandma Lester does her best to stay invisible since she s the oldest and least productive She knows her death is just one less mouth to feed.And they all slowly starve to death The basics of survival have kicked in This, I think, is what alarmed readersthat people could be both this selfish and this ignorant Everyone is unattractive, except 12 year old yellow haired and lovely Pearl Lester Bensey who is married to Jeeter s friend Lov Bensey Ok, let s call it what it is, everyone seems to be ugly but it s all ugly the land, the situation, their rag clothes, the corn husk beds, the dirty sheets Everything is ugly and damaged just like the land.The one thing Jeeter and his wife, Ada, accept is death They tell anyone who will listen what they want to wear new and stylish clothes when they re laid out Although it doesn t mention it, at the time when someone died they were placed in open wooden coffins in the main room of the house and relatives and friends came to pay their respects In death Jeeter and Ada thought and wanted to look nice when they passed and were laid out No, the book was not depressing to me personally although it was a depressing subject The book was about a hard life that was slow to disappear Hey, this is America We can read what we like If I don t like a book, I won t read it This book may not be for you and yes, you might find it depressing If so put it down and pick up Mary Poppins, something that will make you happy I loved Caldwell s writing and will read books written by him It was all I expected and My Family StoryYears ago I was visiting Daddy s birthplace at home on a cotton farm in southwestern North Carolina, between Hayesville, North Carolina and Hiwassee, Georgia I was sitting on the steps of Philadelphia Church with my cousin Rex and I asked him why Grandma and Grandpa moved around so much He laughed asking me you don t know No, I didn t know Rex said they were itinerant sharecroppers and they had to move where land was fertile, where their crops would grow to feed the family I m from a small pop 13,900 Florida city in north Florida, not a farmer for sure, so this came as news to me, the why of their moving frequently The one thing I did remember from visiting Grandma and Grandpa was that they never lived in any house where there was indoor plumbing There was always an outhouse To get to every home they lived in that I recall, there were always many switchbacks up a mountain I recall Daddy saying he looked at the rear end of a jackass from sunup until sundown for so many years he couldn t count They weren t much on education either with all, I believe, of the nine kids in the family dropping out of school and the girls, I think, marrying while in their mid to late teens None ever divorced either Daddy said he never had a real toothbrush until he joined the service when he was 17 He made them from a twig of a specific tree branch by flaring and separating one end to act as bristles He showed us how he did it on one visit to see Grandma Grandma and Grandpa, Mary Jane Gibson Ledford and Mark Ledford Hard working people, maybe in early 40 s In talking to Rex and his wife Marie after reading the book, Rex said that they saw the movie Tobacco Road and Grandma and Grandpa s life and those of the nine kids Daddy being the seventh, Rex s Dad the oldest wasn t much different than the Lester s life as portrayed in the movie Hummm, was my only response Daddy s great grandfather can t recall how many greats in the early 1700 s came to America from Lancashire, England, a farming area in northwest U K He, John, was 15 and came with two older brothers At the time many immigrants got passage to America as indentured servants John farmed for the boat plantation owner for seven years and was a free man at age 22 No surprise that he farmed for his service Me and my brother on Grandma s porch looking like we fit in, barefoot, of courseWhen we visited Grandma, Grandpa and our aunts, uncles and cousins, they thought we were rich because we lived in Florida They thought anyone who lived in Florida had to be rich We look rich, huh How My Family and My GR Friend Jeff Keeten s Family May Have Fit TogetherIn some specific reviews my friend Jeff Keeten has written that his cousin, in researching their family, found their linage includes the Royal Dynasty of the House of Plantagenet My response has been jokingly my kinfolk were outside your castle in the rain planting, then picking and pulling food from the ground to place on the table of your family I said it tongue in cheek As a joke, you know and now it doesn t seem too far fetched Huh Jeff D Wish I had read this many years ago, however it s unlikely I would have much family background which made me relate to the book than I probably would otherwise And no, you don t have to have itinerant farmers as relatives to praise the excellent historical writing of Tobacco Road by Erskine Caldwell, in my mind, a classic. Tobacco Road Wikipdia Tobacco Road, Qui Signifie La Route Du Tabac En Anglais, Peut Dsigner Un Roman D Erskine Caldwell Parau En , Intitul En Version Franaise La Route Du TabacTobacco RoadIMDb Directed By John Ford With Charley Grapewin, Gene Tierney, Marjorie Rambeau, William Tracy Hillbilly Family Life Inrural Georgia Tobacco Road Novel Wikipedia Tobacco Road Is Anovel By Erskine Caldwell About Georgia Sharecroppers It Was Dramatized For Broadway By Jack Kirkland In , And Ran For Eight Years, An Astounding Feat For A Non Musical And, As Of , It Was Still The Th Longest Running Broadway Show In History As Well As Being The Second Longest Running Non MusicalEric Burdon War Tobacco Road Live,HD RIP John D Loudermilk, March ,September ,Songwriter Who Wrote Tobacco Road Archive Footage From German TV Of Eric Burdon War Performing Tobacco RoadTobacco RoadRotten Tomatoes In This Film, Charley Grapewin Stars As Jeeter Lester, Shiftless Patriarch Of A Large Backwoods Clan The Lesters Are About To Be Thrown Off Their Land For Nonpayment Of Rent, But Anyone Who TriesTobacco Road Harley Davidson Raleigh, North Tobacco Road Harley Davidson Is An Harley Davidson Dealership Located In Raleigh, NC We Offer New And Used Harley Davidson Motorcycles AndWe Serve Our Neighbors In Zebulon, Knightdale, Nashville, Louisburg, Henderson, Oxford, Durham, Chapel Hill And Fayetteville Pre Owned Inventory Tobacco Road Harley Tobacco Road Harley Davidson Is An Harley Davidson Dealership Located In Raleigh, NC We Offer New And Used Harley Davidson Motorcycles AndWe Serve Our Neighbors In Zebulon, Knightdale, Nashville, Louisburg, Henderson, Oxford, Durham, Chapel Hill And Fayetteville Golf Courses Golf Packages Tobacco Road Golf Highly Decorated, Never Duplicated Tobacco Road Golf Club In Sanford, NC Was Recently Voted One Of The Top Courses In The World Golf Course Architecture Tobacco Road Song Wikipedia This Article Needs Additional Citations For Verification Please Help Improve This Article By Adding Citations To Reliable Sources Unsourced Material May Be Challenged And Removed Tobacco Road Sports Cafe Raleigh, Durham, Tobacco Road Is Not A Sports Bar The Amra Brothers Share A Passion For Both Sports And Good Food Unfortunately, They Found That Their Favorite Places To Watch The Game Were Never The Same As Their Favorite Places To Eat, And Wanted To Remedy This For The People Of The Triangle Probably thirty years ago, if not longer, I read the play based on this novel and until now that s all I knew of the book, besides its being steeped in controversy I understand why it is, but I think those who take offense are looking at only one part of the picture If you believe Caldwell is mocking the poor sharecroppers, then what is he saying about the townspeople who mercilessly ridicule them, and in their hearing, also cheating them of the little bit of money they might have None of that was humorous to me, though I have a feeling some found it so.The Lester family is starving literally and the little they might acquire is consumed by a hierarchy, a survival of the fittest Grandmother Lester knows she is expendable and keeps out of the way For all the Lester females, silence is power to a certain extent Except for the once silent mother Ada and Bessie, who is not technically a Lester, I don t believe any of them speak but they watch, and act when they can The father Jeeter does not act, but he does talk, repeating himself all the time no one is listening.The book alternates at times between what comes across as almost slapstick not something I care for, but well done here and then musings about the Lester family history and their attachment to the land I felt the last chapter was an elevation in both content and prose style, the perfect coda. Once considered a classic of American literature, but rarely read today, I suspect, unless it is assigned, Tobacco Road is the remarkable story of the antics and tribulations of a destitute white trash family, the Lesters, written by Erskine Caldwell, and was later adapted into a play that was popular in the 1930s, and then adapted again to film by Nunnally Johnson in 1941 First published in 1932, it was followed the next year by Caldwell s other great work on poor whites in the South, God s Little Acre, which also went from play form to eventually become a film in 1958, including in its cast Buddy Hackett, Tina Louise, and a young Michael Landon Warning this is a book most people will dislike, yet some people might find hilarious, because of the way it portrays poor southern whites in Georgia during the Great Depression Do not read this if you are looking for something frivolous, or characters you can readily identify with The characters are coarse and earthy, the bawdiness is truly remarkable for a work of serious literature in that period, and the reader should prepare to be shocked, or at least respond somewhere on the range from mildly to severely disgusted from time to time Why, then, would I give it five stars Because, as Faulkner pointed out, Caldwell certainly has a knack for writing I was drawn into the story and was compelled to learn what happened next I also am fascinated by the fact that many people found this work so funny and entertaining then it is a damning portrayal not only of the characters in the text, but on some levels, of the class sensibilities and lack of compassion in the entertained readers as well I don t mean to sound pompous or self righteous here in judging them truth be told, part of my revulsion was expressed with mixtures of chuckles and gasps as I read on, mesmerized by Caldwell s story conveying ability The characters are caricatures, pathetic human beings, shiftless, lazy, and incredibly selfish Yet there is a sense of overarching tragedy here as well, connected to the loss of arable land And as a historical artifact, we can look here for significant antecedents of some powerful stereotypes about white trash that circulate in our society today, stereotypes widely propagated by the Jerry Springer Show and that live on through several reality shows currently airing on Viacom channels. BLURB Set during the Depression in the depleted farmlands surrounding Augusta, Georgia, Tobacco Road was first published in 1932 It is the story of the Lesters, a family of white sharecroppers so destitute that most of their creditors have given up on them Debased by poverty to an elemental state of ignorance and selfishness, the Lesters are preoccupied by their hunger, sexual longings, and fear that they will someday descend to a lower rung on the social ladder than the black families who live near them COMMENTJeeter Lester could have moved away to the cotton mills, like everybody else, when the soil was so depleted of nutrition that neither tobacco nor cotton could grow in it any But Jeeter was a man of the land He would rather dream of trying to plant a cotton crop than go to Heaven He was made to farm He couldn t farm, due to his financial situation, but he was a religious man God would provide, even if Jeeter sometimes had to steal sweet potatoes and turnips from the neighboring places, or even rob his son in law, until there was nothing left to steal Ada, his wife, needed snuff to kill the hunger pains He was unable to provide that Neither could he buy her a decent dress to die in one day Not that it was a priority for the head of the family His needs came first, and he was not going to die and have the mice eat half his face away in his coffin, like it happened with his father No, he had clear instructions on how he was to be handled when his time would come Ada would just have to wait her turn.He was a very sinful man Probably the most sinful man in the country, he claims, with some of the neighboring children bearing his resemblance, and the new couple who moved in years ago Ada did not want him to finish his sentences, when he got this excited about his legacy Seventeen legitimate children born by Ada later, with twelve surviving, he was a man who knew how to plant seed and let them grow He did not see any other future for himself or his land, than planting as much seed in any way he could That is God s plan for a man like Jeeter Lester.Occassionaly his conscience would remind him of his sins Fortunately, there was neighbors like, Bessie, who could save his soul The Lord told me to come to the Lester house, the woman preacher said I was at home sweeping out the kitchen when He came to me and said, Sister Bessie, Jeeter Lester is doing something evil You go to his place and pray for him right now before it s too late, and try to make him give up his evil goings on I looked right back at the Lord, and said, Lord, Jeeter Lester is a powerful sinful man, but I ll pray for him until the devil goes clear back to hell That s what I told Him, and here I is I came to pray for you and yours, Jeeter Lester Maybe it ain t too late yet to get on the good side of the Lord It s people like you who ought to be good, instead of letting the devil make you do all sorts of sinful things I knowed the good Lord wouldn t let me slip and fall in the devil s hands Jeeter shouted, dancing around Bessie s chair I knowed it I knowed it I always been on God s side, even when things was the blackest, and I knowed He d jerk me out of hell before it was too late I ain t no sinner by nature, Sister Bessie It s just the old devil who s always hounding me to do a little something bad But I ain t going to do it I want to go to heaven when I die Shocking, graphic, heartbreaking, bleak, often humorous, in a brilliant way I can clearly see why Erskine Caldwell is regarded as a literary giant in the American psyche He not only captured a situation completely with his observational and journalistic skills, in his graphic realism, but he also captured the heart and souls of the people he exposed to the world in their own language I couldn t decide if the dire poverty and destitution could be termed a tragicomedy or not There was singular moments in which only humor could deflate a situation, but the underlining message was a tragic one In other instances I was shocked to the core with the cold, inhumane actions of the family members who have lost their sense of dignity and compassion a generation or two ago Angela s Ashes by Frank McCourt had the same effect on me than this book I laughed and cried simultaneously Nobody or nothing in the book endeared me to the situation Yet, I could not help but keep on reading, hoping that something good will happen for the family The author, in an almost cold calculating voice and graphic detail, described the lives of the Lester family the situation of dehumanized paupers, the sharecroppers, living on the isolated back roads of America He meticulously painted the harsh realities of life in the American South during the Great Depression But behind the ruthless exposure, hides the compassionate soul of someone who deeply cared and wanted their story told as part of the social history of a country These people were exploited to the last quarter in their pocket by the affluent members of society The Lesters, and all the hundreds of families like them, were regarded as the scavengers of humanity Yet, he managed to give them a warm, endearing voice in which to tell their stories themselves.The author clearly was way ahead in his thinking and wrote his stories for many generations later to appreciate and understand During his own lifetime he was not appreciated His first two books, Tobacco Road 1932 and God s Little Acre 1933 , made Caldwell famous, but this was not initially due to their literary merit Both novels depict the South as beset by racism, ignorance, cruelty, and deep social inequalities They also contain scenes of sex and violence that were graphic for the time Both books were banned from public libraries and other venues, especially in the South Caldwell was prosecuted for obscenity, though exonerated It takes a few hours to spend with a family like the Lesters, reading their story It takes a lifetime to appreciate the message behind it.HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Such a harsh story of hard times in a hard place Though the Lesters definitely appear to be a type than a real family in fact no one seems particularly real rural poverty certainly was and still is real There are many messages here about the loss of land, the state of tenant farmers, etc, but there are also messages about personal responsibility.I have seen Tobacco Road labeled as satire and I wondered given the degree of realism present But then I think of Granny behind the chinaberry trees, Pearl with the almost unnaturally beautiful blond hair, Bessie the lustful preacher woman with the face no one can abide, and lastly the car the object that both embodies so much emotion and is the vehicle for so much pain and evil So I guess satire is there after all.Caldwell occasionally steps somewhat clumsily into the narrative to discuss his message boldly Otherwise he lets the story provide the details of the rich in power, tenant farmers set loose with nothing, the land being lost to poor use practices over generations.While I agree that government and ownership policy were long to blame, I also find individual actions or inactions very much at fault and Caldwell seems to point to that also But isn t that the problem in much of life the complexity of much of life which requires us to think beyond easy solutions or quick fixes Jeeter planned the same action every year with every year the same non result Caldwell would lile us to look further, I believe. 3.5 stars A downcast story about a poor white sharecropper family set in the years before the Depression Grandmother Lester, Jeeter, the father, and Ada, the mother, eighteen year old daughter Ellie May, sixteen year old son Dude, and twelve year old daughter Pearl sold to Lov, the neighbor, to become his wife are all members of this poverty stricken family, fallen on the worst of hard times They have nine children that are grown and have left home, but can t remember all their names Jeeter sells Pearl for quilts, cylinder oil, and 7 and now she refuses to bed down with Lov, preferring a pallet on the floor At the beginning of the story, a bag of turnips becomes the pot of gold at the end of Jeeter s rainbow, and when Jeeter manages to steal it from Lov, he begs forgiveness from the Lord, asking Sister Bessie to intervene with prayers on his behalf Sister Bessie, a widowed lady preacher, receives convincing messages from God that she should take sixteen year old Dude for a husband and make a preacher out of him Her exploits, as well as those of the Lester family, make for interesting reading.I ve never read anything like Tobacco Road and although it s interesting reading, it also evokes a sense of unease, disquiet, and rumblings of anger The Lesters do not seem much better than animals, living pretty much instinctually, trying to satisfy hunger and sexual appetites Their house is in disrepair and nothing is ever fixed When the roof leaks, they just move to another corner of the room Jeeter dreams about growing cotton, but no creditor will lend him money They live on land once owned by Grandfather Lester, long since lost to creditors and taxmen There are crazy, almost comedic fiascos that occur, but the world these people live in causes my humor to dry up Jeeter demeans Ellie May because she has a harelip that he never could find the money to get fixed What man would want to look at that face, he asks He sells Pearl and leers at his daughter in law A lot of times, these characters just seem dumb Lewis Nordan says in the foreword, When we accused others of living on Tobacco Road, we were distancing ourselves from a sociological stratum of society that we were afraid of being associated with, for that is how we or I, anyway understood Tobacco Road, as a sociological statement about a region Yes, that is completely the feeling I get from reading Tobacco Road, that the author is making a sociological statement about the poor whites that lived in this region As I was growing up, there were some very poor children that rode my school bus and always smelled like pee When I told my mother about this, she said, always be nice to them That s the way I used to smell sometimes When you sleep several children in a bed, somebody s likely to pee on you during the night Growing up poor, my parents were motivated and compassionate And yet, from an early age, I think I would have known to steer clear of anyone like Jeeter Lester. He sometimes said it was partly his own fault, but he believed steadfastly that his position had been brought about by other peopleErskine Caldwell, Tobacco RoadSometimes, when I m unable to understand Georgia s ability to support and defend Judge Roy Moore, it helps to read a little bit of Erskine Caldwell Tobacco Road reminds me a bit of Hemingway, a bit of Twain, and a bit of Steinbeck It is both a social justice novel and a darkly comic novel that paints the ugly corners of human poverty and depravity The Lesters are a family of white sharecropers that are basically rotting into the earth Social and economic norms and even the family are lost Religion is abused Even new cars are abused and quickly swallowed by the Earth The land is fallow, burned, and everything is going to Hell It is a good thing the novel was so short, because it was painful to read. I am amazed that so many people on this website just did not get this book Perhaps it has to do with their innate feelings about people from the South Maybe they should look to own their prejudices.This is one of the most powerful books I have ever read While there were certain humorous passages, I did not find this book in the least bit funny, and I cannot understand the thinking of anyone who did.The Lesters were a family who were caught up in the end of an era the era of sharecropping, brought on by a sea change in farming practices and the Depression anyone see any parallels here Yes, they were ignorant, but that is not to say they were stupid They were facing the real possibility of starvation because the only life they had ever known had been taken away from them They were desperate and concerned only with survival.Of course they made silly choices, but they were aided in this by unscrupulous people such as the Captain, the car salesman, and the hotel manager They did not know any better and were taken advantage of because of it I found Jeter Lester to be an unsympathetic character for the most part, until the very end, when Lov gave a kind of eulogy about people who love the land and what they expect from it This passage gave me a better understanding of Jeter and I read it over and over again Jeter had had the ambition and life beaten out of him by the breakdown of the only system he had ever known and the final betrayal was that of the land itself.Altruism and high moral standards come easily in a wealthy society This book points out what can happen to the people who are left behind.
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.
- 192 pages
- Tobacco Road
- Erskine Caldwell
- 23 June 2019 Erskine Caldwell