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The Land

Mildred D. Taylor

Family and Epilogue

The Promise

Important Quotations Explained

Summary

Family

After Mitchell's death, Paul storms off the forty acres with a shotgun, hunting for Digger Wallace. After a few days, Tom Bee and Sam Perry find Paul and bring him home. Meanwhile, nothing can persuade Caroline to leave the forty acres—neither Paul nor her family, who come to help Paul and Caroline during their period of mourning. Caroline insists that twenty acres are hers and that her life is on the land she owns. Paul gravely asks her to marry him, and she, thinking Paul is asking her only because Mitchell asked him to, refuses. Miz Perry tries to explain this to Paul and assures him that she would be proud to call him her son.

Filmore Granger, upon hearing of Mitchell's death, stops by to tell Paul that he expects no fewer trees now that Mitchell is dead. Paul enters a delirium of working and scrambling to meet his payments on Hollenbeck's land: he hires another man, he sells his father's ring, his mother's watch, and his tools. Though he longs increasingly to disclose his worries to Caroline, he keeps his burdens to himself. Paul grows ill from his hard work, and Caroline reminds him that he cannot create his independence and wealth singlehandedly—he must rely on the help of God, his family, and friends. Caroline works beside him, and when he starts to leave the farm to sell mules, she gives him all the money she can scrape together. One night, while burning branches and brush from the land, Caroline's skirts catch on fire. She is ill and confined to bed for a month as a result, but neither she nor her unborn baby sustain any real harm.

With only two weeks left until Paul can take ownership of the forty acres, Granger appears at Paul's door, accusing Paul of chopping trees not on the land leased to him and selling them for money. Granger expresses his outrage that Paul has contracted to buy more formerly Granger land from Hollenbeck and insists that this level of land ownership is inappropriate for Paul. Granger offers Paul the chance to sharecrop on the forty, but Granger states that the forty is still his, including any crops Paul has planted. Nearly defeated, Paul returns to the banks,but receives only lectures on the audacity of his desire to own such a large amount of good land. Sawyer offers to lend Paul the money he needs, but Paul, who understands the significance of such a debt to a white man, refuses. Instead, he wires Cassie to send any money she can but expects nothing from her. That night, he tells Caroline what has happened, and the two make plans to leave the forty acres.

On the day before they are to leave, Paul walks the land he so longed to own. No money has come from Cassie, and he returns home, utterly defeated. But waiting at the campfire is Robert, with a fat envelope in his hand. Inside is a bank note from Cassie for eleven hundred dollars with a letter from Cassie explaining that she has not only sent Paul her entire savings and everything she could borrow against her and her husband's business, but she sold the land upon which their mother lived—which, after emancipation, their mother had bought from their father. Also inside the envelope is a letter from their mother, bequeathing the land and another hundred dollars, contained inside, to Paul. Robert stays the night, and the two brothers do not sleep but talk instead. The next morning, Paul immediately goes to Hollenbeck, only stopping to ask Charles Jamison to accompany him and draw up a binding legal document for the transaction. When Paul leaves Hollenbeck, he finally owns the land. He returns home, withholding the news from Caroline and Nathan, and the three prepare to leave the forty. They disinter Mitchell from his gravesite on the forty with the intention of burying him in a place they can visit. Paul, letting the others think they are driving to Vicksburg, drives them to the heart of their land. Caroline sits up, commenting on the beautiful countryside. Paul suggests they sleep there and proposes the spot as a burial place for Mitchell, finally explaining that he has bought the land. He proposes to Caroline, asking her to work the land with him. The two are married shortly thereafter, and Caroline gives birth to Mitchell's baby, whom they name Mitchell Thomas Logan.

Epilogue

Paul closes his story from a point in time perhaps twenty years after the final events of the novel. He tells us that he and Caroline raised four sons and lost two daughters in their infancy. He and Caroline were able to buy another 200 acres of Hollenbeck land, this time from Wade Jamison. Digger Wallace was found dead, drowned in a lake presumably as a result of his own drunkenness. Around fifteen years after the close of the book, Paul took his sons to visit his father, who was on his deathbed. He, Hammond, and Robert (George was missing), spent an easy and happy night with his father, who died the next morning. Paul at last feels as though he has made peace with his white family.

Analysis

Filmore Granger's method of reclaiming the land he promised to Paul illustrates the interrelation between racial and class oppression. Granger is motivated by racism—he refuses to accept that Paul's forty acres will help him buy two hundred acres of prime, formerly Granger plantation land. Granger is also motivated by greed—he waits until all the trees have been cut to make his false accusation and insists that Paul leave all his crops in the ground for Granger to harvest. Granger's actions illustrate how many southern whites were opposed to blacks working in anything of real value. In a way, the sense of superiority and entitlement that guides Granger is a mechanism for him to exploit blacks. The unfair social system that allows Granger to make such outrageous and unfounded claims against Paul in turn deprives Paul of his forty acres and the economic ability to support himself and his family.

Paul's repudiation of help from whites after Robert's betrayal of him persists throughout the book. As if to confirm his mistrust of whites, Paul's final succor comes from Cassie and his mother and not his white family. At the same time, many seemingly trustworthy and unprejudiced whites give Paul sincere offers of help along the way: Robert delivers the fateful letter, Sawyer offers to lend Paul the money he needs, Jamison oversees the transaction between Hollenbeck and Paul, and Wade Jamison sells Paul the other two hundred acres he wanted so dearly. Without these well-meaning men, Paul would not have been able to achieve his goal. While he allows himself to accept the freely proffered help of these men, he never enters into a financial obligation to them. Paul feels that being financially obliged to a white man is too close to the dependent status of a slave. If he became indebted to Sawyer, he might have to work his entire life to pay the debt. If he became indebted to his father or brother, he would be, at some level, condoning his family's double standards.

Paul is a fiercely independent and vigorously self-reliant individual, but a number of his accomplishments have depended on his kin's support, as Caroline admonishes him to remember. He and Mitchell rely on each other for help and protection, and he grows to rely on Caroline's will, courage, and determination. In the end, though he has struck the deal with Hollenbeck using the fruits of his own hard work and ingenuity, he can only close the deal with the help of his family. This help, as his mother explains in her letter, was there all along. But Paul understands his need to test himself, and he waits until every other avenue has been exhausted before calling on his family. Paul is independent but does not cut himself off from his family, and it is both his fierce determination and the support of the people around him that allow him to achieve his dream.

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