Barren Ground

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  • Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)


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Novel by Ellen Glasgow, published in 1925.

Dorinda Oakley, daughter of a land-poor farmer in Virginia, at 20 goes to work in Nathan Pedlar's store. She falls in love with Jason Greylock, weak-willed son of the village doctor, and forgets her purpose of helping her father to rebuild the farm, but the day before their planned wedding Jason is forced to marry a former fiancee. Bitterly disillusioned, Dorinda seeks work in New York. At her father's death, Dorinda returns to the family farm, which is impoverished and overgrown with broomsedge. Having studied scientific agriculture, she introduces progressive methods, gradually returning the “barren ground” to fertility and creating a prosperous dairy farm. Her mother becomes an invalid, and her brother Rufus is lazy and selfish, so that Dorinda must carry on unaided. After her mother's death she marries Nathan Pedlar, to provide a home for his children, and after he dies she shelters Jason, now penniless and ill from excessive drinking. He soon dies, and to the suggestion that she might marry again, Dorinda replies with an ironic smile, “Oh, I've finished with all that … I am thankful to have finished with all that.”

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards).

Reference entries

Ellen Glasgow (1874—1945)