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Books Read in 2017-2018 > Tobacco Road - Spoilers

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message 1: by Loretta, Moderator (new)

Loretta | 5948 comments Mod
Please use this thread to discuss the book freely!


message 2: by John (new)

John Contrary to other reviews I've read of Tobacco Road, I don't think this is racist or misogynistic. Caldwell isn't telling us to be racist or be cruel to women. I also don't think he's suggesting a policy of eugenics.

At the end of the novel, I felt it was about the futility of relying solely on hope.

What do you think?


message 3: by Daniel (new)

Daniel (danintennessee) I just started it. So far so good. of course it is entirely possible to write racist characters without the writer being racist.
It would be equally silly to say that Nabokov was a pedophile, although his main character in Lolita is certainly that. And, certainly, critics had their gripes.


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... I just finished this book and really loved it. I do know that Caldwell intentionally wrote about racism and classism, and in my opinion this book is about the latter and partially about the former. But I do not think that makes the book racist or the author either. I think it is important to write about these things as this aids us to understand them better.

I found the ending to be a commentary on hope, loss of hope, injustice, and most importantly it continued the classism theme.

I loved the humorous bits of this book. The antics involving the automobile were so funny and rich.

I loved the book as a whole.


message 5: by Loretta, Moderator (new)

Loretta | 5948 comments Mod
Daniel wrote: "I just started it. So far so good. of course it is entirely possible to write racist characters without the writer being racist.
It would be equally silly to say that Nabokov was a pedophile, alt..."


Very interesting statement Daniel. Thanks for sharing. I hope you enjoy the rest of the book, 😊


message 6: by Loretta, Moderator (new)

Loretta | 5948 comments Mod
John wrote: "Contrary to other reviews I've read of Tobacco Road, I don't think this is racist or misogynistic. Caldwell isn't telling us to be racist or be cruel to women. I also don't think he's suggesting a ..."

Can't wait to read and join in the conversation John and to answer your question. 😊


message 7: by John (new)

John Does anyone think the Lesters had some complicity in their misfortunes?

All of their kids left them, with the exception of Ellie May who was willingly sent away. Jeeter refused to consider the option of moving off his land which was completely depleted by incompetent farming. And while Bessie buying a new car was done for good reasons, I think that $800 could have been used for something more beneficial.

The Lesters were definitely victims of classism, but at some point, don't you have to pull yourself up by your bootstraps? (which interestingly, Jeeter always dropped his shoes on the floor with heavy thuds - a bit like he was dropping any of his obligations to his family, and the thuds being just another nail in his coffin).


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... John wrote: "Does anyone think the Lesters had some complicity in their misfortunes?

All of their kids left them, with the exception of Ellie May who was willingly sent away. Jeeter refused to consider the opt..."


I completely agree that they contributed to their own demise. The scene that really emphasized it was when they went off with only enough money for gas, but ended up needing oil. And then they also hadn't planned for food. It was a bit crazy.

And I think that the kids all knew that if they returned they would be trapped just like the parents were. I even wondered if there was some abuse in the childhoods.

I also think they made their own poverty worse, but I also think that sometimes people who are so poor and so poorly educated just do not understand it. They don't see that what they are doing is making it worse, and don't see any other way of doing things. I was raised in significant poverty and my parents thought I was wasting time and money by going to college and law school. They would have preferred I work at a minimum wage job.


message 9: by Loretta, Moderator (new)

Loretta | 5948 comments Mod
Anyone else reading Tobacco Road who'd like to share their thoughts? 🤔


message 10: by John (new)

John Kelly wrote: "I completely agree that they contributed to their own demise. The scene that really emphasized it was when they went off with only enough money ..."

Kelly,
I also thought about the possibility of abuse too. The only thing we have to go off is Jeeter's comments about his relationships with the kids, and with the exception of Dude, I think he says that the relationships were great. But of course, we can't really trust Jeeter's perceptions.

What I do remembering noticing is Jeeter's comments about Pearl and how pretty she is. Reading those comments did give me the feeling that Jeeter had (ugh) impure thoughts about her, but also, Pearl isn't his daughter. And that's another thing I found interesting about the story...the one pure and beautiful person in the story was Pearl, but Pearl wasn't even a Lester.


message 11: by Marilyn (new)

Marilyn Even though the family no longer owned the land, Jeeter considered it to be Lester land and he was not going to leave it. Ada, most likely without telling Jeeter, encouraged her daughters to go to Augusta and work for wages. Not get married and rely on a husband to take care of you, but get out now and make your own way.

We don't know why the boys left, but it's implied. There was no land, no credit and no respect.


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... John wrote: "Kelly wrote: "I completely agree that they contributed to their own demise. The scene that really emphasized it was when they went off with only enough money ..."

Kelly,
I also thought about the ..."


I felt like Jeeter's comments about his kids combined with their actions -- in direct opposition to what he said -- were strong indicators that something bad happened in the family. But as you said it is only an implication.

Interesting point about Pearl. It hadn't even occurred to me.


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... Marilyn wrote: "Even though the family no longer owned the land, Jeeter considered it to be Lester land and he was not going to leave it. Ada, most likely without telling Jeeter, encouraged her daughters to go to ..."

Marilyn did you get the feeling at all that the kids' refusal to help in any way or to visit came from a place like John and I are discussing?


message 14: by Daniel (new)

Daniel (danintennessee) My reading is going slowly. Normally I would have finished this in a few days; I'm 50% through it but I'm reading two other books at the same time. My strongest impressions are with respect to the dialogue. A lot of times it seems like Caldwell sets up a situation where two characters are speaking . . . at each other rather than with each other. They're talking about two different things and it's only a dialogue in the loosest sense. Have you noticed this? There's this whole "discussion" between Jeeter and Lov, for example, where Jeeter is talking about the turnips and how hungry he is. Lov talks about Pearl and how she won't sleep with him.
At first I thought that was just something between those two characters but it really plays out more and more: Bessie wants to get married and turn Dude into a preacher; Dude can't quit talking or thinking about driving.


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... Daniel wrote: "My reading is going slowly. Normally I would have finished this in a few days; I'm 50% through it but I'm reading two other books at the same time. My strongest impressions are with respect to the ..."

Interesting. I think you are right. My mind is going now trying to decide why I think the author did this.


message 16: by Daniel (new)

Daniel (danintennessee) Regarding whether the Jeeters contributed to their own misfortunes, fate plays a central theme in the novel; i.e. how the Jeeters view fate and God's hand in their lives. They view God as both a puppeteer, who controls their lives but also a puppet to be controlled if only they pray hard enough or in such a way as to change his moods. Some passages stand out:
When Bessie and Due have a car accident and they bring the car back to the Jeeters' homeplace: "Bessie looked at the mashed fender and missing headlight, but she said nothing. She could hardly blame it on the devil this time, as she had been riding in the car herself when the accident occurred, but it seemed to her that God ought to have taken better care of it, especially after she had stopped and prayed about it when she bought the automobile that morning in morning."
And
In another scene, the narrator is discussing how Jeeter had taken on debt to get in a crop approximately 7 years before and he says "[w]hat do I get out of [the land]? Not a durn thing, except a debt of three dollars. It aint right, I tell you. God ain't working on your side. He won't stand for such cheating much longer, neither. He ain't so liking of you rich people as you think he is. God, He likes the poor."
So the Jeeters (and Bessie) see God as taking sides, but also capricious and whimsical. Eventually, God's will changes directions like the wind -so things might turn around in the future, but, you can't tell when that's going to happen. Notice, Jeeter since his bad experience with farming and the loan company he hadn't farmed at all for seven years. He still considered himself a man of the land though; he still considered himself a farmer. (A farmer who doesn't farm). I agree that he brought it on himself, but it's a poverty mindset and affects, that infects the family's thinking on just about everything. And it leaves them impoverished in just about every way.


message 17: by Marilyn (new)

Marilyn Kelly wrote: "Daniel wrote: "My reading is going slowly. Normally I would have finished this in a few days; I'm 50% through it but I'm reading two other books at the same time. My strongest impressions are with ..."

I thought it was because both men were starving for a basic need - Jeeter for food and Lov for sex. They couldn't think of anything else.


message 18: by Daniel (new)

Daniel (danintennessee) Yes, Marilyn, so true. And it seems that all of the characters are starving in one way or another. But it's more than that, because the other character in these respective dialogues doesn't notice it. Turn your attention to scenes between Jeeter and Ellie Mae, for example -she's starved for love and for basic human dignity, and Jeeter just has no clue. He talks at her, more like she's a pet than a person.


message 19: by John (new)

John Just a question...but does anyone think that Jeeter's death was intentional? A suicide?

I'm from the country in East Texas. When I was younger, we would burn the dead grass in fields towards the end of winter, but we never did it unless we had a lot of people to help contain the fire. I remember one time facing what was just a very tall wall of fire - very obvious that the fire could get away from you. Jeeter, if he had done this multiple times as he says, should have known this. He also should have known how easily it is for fire to reignite from practically dead embers or how floating embers can fly through the air and land on areas not close to the main fire.

Had he, at the end of the book, finally given up? He had no money, no food, no way of earning a living. He said he would never leave the land. Was this his way of ensuring he never would?


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... Daniel wrote: "Regarding whether the Jeeters contributed to their own misfortunes, fate plays a central theme in the novel; i.e. how the Jeeters view fate and God's hand in their lives. They view God as both a pu..."

Wow Daniel! You put this into words so well!


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... John wrote: "Just a question...but does anyone think that Jeeter's death was intentional? A suicide?

I'm from the country in East Texas. When I was younger, we would burn the dead grass in fields towards the e..."


I think that the author wanted us to at least consider it. You are right that his knowledge was there. He is not a young man and has lived on this land his entire life. He knows it well.


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... Thanks to all of you for such a great conversation! This is one of my favorite discussion threads ever as you have all brought so many thought-provoking questions and comments to the table.


message 23: by Loretta, Moderator (new)

Loretta | 5948 comments Mod
I'm thrilled that some members decided to read this book and that the members who did read it had thought provoking discussions!

I thank member John for adding the book to his TBR shelf because that's where I found it!

Thanks John! 🤗


message 24: by Loretta, Moderator (new)

Loretta | 5948 comments Mod
I'm more than half way through the book. I decided to come here and read some of the comments because I'm slightly bored. Four chapters dedicated to turnips? Really? I thought perhaps I missed something and coming here reading comments I see I really haven't missed anything.

I agree with the assessment that Jeeter was an abuser. I also think the apple didn't fall far from the tree because Dude was too.

I agree with Marilyn's statement about Jeeter and Lov. That was spot on.

Guess I'll come back and comment once I'm finished.


message 25: by Loretta, Moderator (new)

Loretta | 5948 comments Mod
One star read for me. If I could have given the book a big fat zero, I would have. What a complete waste of time. Sick, twisted and perverse.


message 26: by Rosemarie (new)

Rosemarie | 1528 comments Maybe I should be glad I didn't get a copy of the book.
I tried reading a different book by this author a couple of years ago and abandoned it.


message 27: by Loretta, Moderator (new)

Loretta | 5948 comments Mod
Rosemarie wrote: "Maybe I should be glad I didn't get a copy of the book.
I tried reading a different book by this author a couple of years ago and abandoned it."


I really went into it thinking it was going to be something great based on the comments here. My bad. But hey, you might have enjoyed it Rosemarie.


message 28: by Rosemarie (new)

Rosemarie | 1528 comments I have not found a copy anywhere, and I am looking for a really inexpensive copy.
I grew up in an area of southwestern Ontario where they grew tobacco. I worked one summer during high school on a tobacco farm because the play was good. It was a nasty job and I only did it one year. I had to get up early in the morning and the tobacco leaves made my hands very sticky.


message 29: by Loretta, Moderator (new)

Loretta | 5948 comments Mod
Rosemarie wrote: "I have not found a copy anywhere, and I am looking for a really inexpensive copy.
I grew up in an area of southwestern Ontario where they grew tobacco. I worked one summer during high school on a t..."


That's incredible Rosemarie! Obviously I had no idea!

The book rarely spoke about the tobacco farm as you describe it. That would have been interesting.


message 30: by Marilyn (new)

Marilyn Sometimes it's a book we don't like that can provide much fodder for discussion.


message 31: by Rosemarie (new)

Rosemarie | 1528 comments That is so true, Marilyn. Especially if some readers like it a lot. Books speak to different readers in different ways.


message 32: by John (new)

John I can understand your review, Loretta. The events in the book are truly horrible. Even thinking now of the suffering and death of the grandmother makes me cringe.

I don't think I'll recommend this book to anyone, except for maybe family members for whom it might, like me, remind of another family that lived close to us when we were growing up. I won't go into their true life horrors, because that's what they are...horrors. If there is a redeeming value to Tobacco Road, it may be that it humanizes that family for me. What happened to them isn't necessarily their fault. Maybe they just antagonized a bad situation as the Jeeters did.

I also agree with Marilyn and Rosemarie's comments. Crime and Punishment also contains a horrible crime (similar, in a way, to the grandmother's death in Tobacco Road), but yet by the end of the novel, I found myself sympathizing with Raskolnikov, and happy when he found redemption. True, I was only happy at the end of Tobacco Road because the Jeeters' misery was over...I'm just agreeing that good discussions can come out of terrible stories.

I'm not trying to defend the story or say that anybody's opinion is incorrect or invalid. Simply some thoughts this morning...


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... Loretta wrote: "Rosemarie wrote: "Maybe I should be glad I didn't get a copy of the book.
I tried reading a different book by this author a couple of years ago and abandoned it."

I really went into it thinking it..."


I was pretty sure you wouldn't enjoy it but was hoping that I would be wrong.


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... John wrote: "I can understand your review, Loretta. The events in the book are truly horrible. Even thinking now of the suffering and death of the grandmother makes me cringe.

I don't think I'll recommend this..."


I like stories that expose the miseries of life. For me it reminds me to be empathetic, compassionate and open-minded. And it reminds me that I have it good compared to many. I also seem to be attracted to stories about poverty, though I am not entirely sure why.


message 35: by Loretta, Moderator (new)

Loretta | 5948 comments Mod
Marilyn wrote: "Sometimes it's a book we don't like that can provide much fodder for discussion."

I totally agree Marilyn! 😊

Thanks everyone for the great discussions! 🤗


message 36: by Loretta, Moderator (new)

Loretta | 5948 comments Mod
John wrote: "I can understand your review, Loretta. The events in the book are truly horrible. Even thinking now of the suffering and death of the grandmother makes me cringe.

I don't think I'll recommend this..."


Great thoughts John! Please! We all value all members thoughts on the books that we read! 😊


message 37: by Loretta, Moderator (new)

Loretta | 5948 comments Mod
Rosemarie wrote: "That is so true, Marilyn. Especially if some readers like it a lot. Books speak to different readers in different ways."

Most definitely Rosemarie! 😊


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... The discussion here was really good. I really enjoyed all of your thoughts.


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