It has long been contested that works of great Literature have certain qualities and that they belong to an exclusive canon of works. Value is placed upon them for a number of reasons, including their reflection of cultural or social movements, the special meaning they possess, and even their use of specific narrative elements. Up until recently, scholars and intellectuals would never dream of examining works of lower caliber with any hopes of discovering value or merit. A new movement within intellectual circles, however, has shifted focus onto so-called low-brow novels like Chester Himes’ If He Hollers Let Him Go and God’s Little Acre by Erskine Caldwell. Surprisingly enough, the works of Himes and Caldwell can be held up to the same tests as more canonical works through their appeal to ideological remnants of Romanticism and the Enlightenment, their use of literary devices to create meaning, and the narratives’ use of these devises to enhance the elements of enjoyment and pleasure in reading.
According to the history books, the era of Romanticism and the subsequent Enlightenment have long since past, but their far-reaching effects are still evident in literature written in the 20th century. The importance of human merit and worth rooted in Romantic thought has transcended the bounds of time and manifested itself in the novels of Caldwell and Himes through a preoccupation with what it means to be human. In God’s Little Acre, not only are readers prone to question whether or not the Walden family is subhuman because of their problematic behaviors, but the character of Buck remarks that “God put us in the bodies of animals and ...
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...e insight to life or contain certain meanings that the reader must reconstruct in order to evaluate the text fully. Other novels are considered to be noteworthy because they exist within a specific literary movement, or because they reflect cultural change. However much one might argue that Erskine Caldwell’s God’s Little Acre and Chester Himes’ If He Hollers Let Him Go belong at the bottom of the literary ‘stack,’ they nevertheless employ the same concepts and exhibit the same characteristics that turn many other novels into works of ideal greatness.
Brooks, Peter. Reading for the Plot: Design & Intention in Narrative. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1984.
Erskine, Caldwell. God’s Little Acre. New York, NY: New American Library, Inc., 1933.
Himes, Chester. If He Hollers Let Him Go. New York, NY: New American Library, Inc., 1945.
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