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The Land

Mildred D. Taylor

The Bargain

Caroline

The Promise

Summary

Paul begins looking for land by asking for Sawyer's advice. Sawyer has little to tell him but puts him in touch with Charles Jamison, who is also looking to buy some of Hollenbeck's land. Mr. Jamison explains that Hollenbeck's wife died recently, and he will likely sell the land in a few years. In the meantime, however, Jamison recommends that Paul ask Filmore Granger about buying land. Paul pays Granger a visit, and Granger grudgingly, under the eyes of his outspoken and unpleasant young son Harlan, agrees to give Paul forty acres if he clears the land of trees and hands the trees over to Granger as payment. It is backbreaking work, but Paul figures that he can do it in two years if Mitchell helps. Paul agrees to these terms, although he insists that Granger draw up a contract.

As he is wrapping up his affairs in Vicksburg, Sam Perry asks Paul if he will take Nathan on as a woodworking apprentice, and Paul agrees, glad to have an extra hand. By this time, Paul has decided that he will ask Mr. Perry's permission to court Caroline, but before he can muster the courage, Perry informs him that Caroline is engaged to a man who works on a camp south of his farm. Paul has a sinking suspicion that this man is Mitchell, and when he goes to visit him at the camp, Mitchell confirms his fears. However, Paul puts aside his feelings for Caroline, reasoning that Mitchell got up the nerve to court her first and thus deserves her. He asks Mitchell to help him clear the land in exchange for half of the forty acres, and Mitchell agrees. The next day at breakfast with the Perry's, Rachel apologizes for her previous coldness and thanks Paul sincerely for the rocker. Paul and Mitchell set out for their new home.

As Nathan and Paul begin to clear the land, Wade Jamison, Charles's son, begins showing up, asking Nathan to go fishing, and eventually asking to help with the logging itself. Paul discourages the friendship, warning Nathan with the story of Robert's betrayal, but the affection between the two boys persists. Mitchell finishes his work at the camp and arrives to help logging, and the three companions settle into a pattern of long, hard days. Every month, when Granger comes to collect the lumber, Mitchell travels to Vicksburg to visit Caroline. One Monday, he comes back with news that Robert has been in Vicksburg. Paul visits Vicksburg later that month to deliver the furniture he has been working on in the evenings, but he finds in a letter from Cassie that his father's family still does not know Robert's whereabouts.

One day in spring, Granger appears on the land, informing them that they must produce another eighty trees a week or else lose their claim on the land. Paul struggles desperately to maintain his calm in the face of this unfair and outrageous demand, but he holds steady, resolving not to let Granger beat him down. Paul reasons that they can meet these demands if they have another hand, and Mitchell recruits an acquaintance of his, Tom Bee, whom they will have to pay. Tom arrives with a little white boy, John Wallace, a boy with no family but a drunkard brother. Paul realizes that this boy was in the band that mistook him and Mitchell for chicken thieves. Mitchell becomes suspicious and agitated at the thought of a white boy working with them, but Tom insists and reluctantly Paul and Mitchell agree. One day, however, John's drunkard brother, Digger Wallace appears, wanting to take his brother back to Alabama. He orders Mitchell to fetch the boy, and Mitchell refuses. When Digger snaps a whip at him, Mitchell snatches the whip out of the air and snaps it inches in front of Digger's face, causing the feckless man to wet his pants. He collects his brother and leaves, but Paul is deeply troubled.

In the meantime, Wade continues to work with Nathan, and finally Paul takes Wade aside, explaining to him why he cannot work with them. Doggedly, Wade asks to be allowed to work until Granger relents in his demand for extra trees, and Paul concedes. Finally, Charles Jamison visits and explains that his son sincerely wants to help and wants to make reparations to blacks for the injustices they have suffered. In demonstration of this, Wade coolly stands up to Harlan's taunts when Harlan finds him working with the black men. Mitchell and Caroline get married that summer, and though Paul can barely look at Caroline, he is happy for his friend and new wife. The couple moves out to the forty acres, where they sleep in the small cabin that Paul and Mitchell built earlier.

Analysis

Paul has internalized the lesson his father tried to teach him in the first chapter of the novel—to fight with his head and not his fists. This is exemplified when Granger appears and unfairly changes the terms of the contract. Though Paul wants to cry out and rage against this blatant abuse, he withholds his anger, for he understands that the authorities will support Granger. If Paul wants the land, he must agree to Granger's terms, no matter how bitter these terms may be. Paul realizes that he is taking a gamble when he enters into this contract with Granger, but he weighs that risk against the reward, which is land ownership. In fact, through all of his interactions with Granger, Paul must fight back his rising outrage. In a way, Paul has greater vision than Granger: he understands that only by bearing the indignities the white man heaps upon him can he achieve a position of power in Southern society. Ironically, by bearing Granger's abuse, Paul is fighting back and not allowing himself to be beaten down.

The characters continue to struggle with the implications of biracial friendships. Both Mitchell and Paul, remembering Robert's betrayal, warn young Nathan against entering into friendships with whites. Nathan, as Paul once did, stubbornly clings to the conviction that his friendship is different. Indeed, Taylor gives us no clear or categorical answer: Wade Jamison, is, after all, the same Mr. Jamison who remains a steadfast and true friend to the Logan family in Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry,. John Wallace, the book implies, is the father or uncle of the timorous but gentle Jeremy of Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry, who tries to befriend Paul's grandson Stacey, despite the racism of his bigoted brothers. The men reluctantly accept Wade's presence, but they remain wary because in their experience they were betrayed when they credulously accepted the friendly advances of whites. As Nathan suggests, a new type of relationship between blacks and whites may be possible, but as Paul and Mitchell insist, that relationship will still be plagued by troubles set upon it by the racist society in which it occurs.

From this racist society springs Paul's visceral desire to own land. His land would be, in a sense, his own country or society where racism would not exist. As long as he cannot provide himself with both shelter and a steady income, he must engage in relationships with whites—like Luke Sawyer, Hattie Crenshaw, and Jessup—and rely upon their goodwill for his well-being. While many of the whites with whom Paul deals are fair, he understands that as long as whites are not held accountable by law for their behavior toward blacks, they will only be held accountable by their own sense of morality, which has been shaped by a racist cultural heritage. Paul knows he cannot always count on dealing with honorable whites. Land would provide Paul with space that would insulate him and his family from the society in which they are located. Paul's desire to own land symbolizes his desire to build a world in which he and his loved ones can exercise their full human rights without threat or interference.

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