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Barren Ground

death dorinda nathan broomsedge

a novel by Ellen Glasgow, published in 1925. Its central figure, Dorinda Oakley, is the daughter of a poor farmer in Virginia of Scottish-Irish stock. She goes to work in Nathan Pedlar's store and falls in love with Jason Greylock, the feckless son of the village doctor; the day before their wedding Jason is obliged to marry an earlier fiancée. Distressed, Dorinda leaves for New York where she is employed as a children's nurse by Dr Faraday, who had come to her aid after a road accident. At her father's death Dorinda returns home to find the family farm run down and overgrown with broomsedge. Both her mother, now an invalid, and her idle brother Rufus are unable to manage the farm and Dorinda sets about restoring it. Later she marries Nathan Pedlar, as much out of compassion as of love, and after Nathan's death, looks after her first love, Jason, now an alcoholic, until his death. In order for the ‘barren ground’ to yield the desired crops the land has to be worked with taxing energy, the non-productive indigenous growths of the area being broomsedge, pine, and life-everlasting. Each of these plants gives its name to a section of the novel: broomsedge stands for the sexual impulse; pine for the brooding presence of sickness and death; and life-everlasting for that nameless force which enables people like Dorinda to persevere through all adversities until death.

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