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Ulysses Orestia Thousand Acres Lear Essays

For the film adaptation, see A Thousand Acres (film).

A Thousand Acres is a 1991 novel by American author Jane Smiley. It won the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction in 1991 and was adapted to a 1997 film of the same name.

The novel is a modernized retelling of Shakespeare's King Lear and is set on a thousand-acre (four hundred hectares) farm in Iowa that is owned by a family of a father and his three daughters. It is told through the point of view of the oldest daughter, Ginny.

Plot summary[edit]

Larry Cook is an aging farmer who decides to incorporate his farm, handing complete and joint ownership to his three daughters, Ginny, Rose, and Caroline. When the youngest daughter objects, she is removed from the agreement. This sets off a chain of events that brings dark truths to light and explodes long-suppressed emotions, as the story eventually reveals the long-term sexual abuse of the two eldest daughters that was committed by their father.

The plot also focuses on Ginny's troubled marriage, her difficulties in bearing a child and her relationship with her family.

Similarities to King Lear[edit]

There are many similarities between King Lear and A Thousand Acres, including both plot details and character development.[1] For example, some of the names of the main characters in the novel are reminiscent of their Shakespearean counterparts. Larry is Lear, Ginny is Goneril, Rose is Regan, and Caroline is Cordelia. The role of the Cooks' neighbors, Harold Clark and his sons Loren and Jess, also rework the importance of Gloucester, Edgar and Edmund in King Lear.

The novel maintains major themes present in Lear, namely: gender roles, appearances vs. reality, generational conflict, hierarchical structures (the Great chain of being), madness, and the powerful force of nature.[1]

Correspondences between the characters in the novel and in the play[edit]

  • Larry Cook = King Lear
  • Ginny Cook Smith = Goneril
  • Rose Cook Lewis = Regan
  • Caroline Cook Rasmussen = Cordelia
  • Frank Rasmussen = King of France
  • Ty Smith = Duke of Albany
  • Pete Lewis = Duke of Cornwall
  • Jess Clark = Edmund
  • Harold Clark = Earl of Gloucester
  • Loren Clark = Edgar
  • Marv Carson (The Fool)[2]


External links[edit]

Comparing Jane Smiley's A Thousand Acres and William Shakespeare's King Lear

2135 Words9 Pages

Comparing Jane Smiley's A Thousand Acres and William Shakespeare's King Lear

Jane Smiley's novel A Thousand Acres is a modern version of William Shakespeare's King Lear. The tragic ideas brought out by King Lear are revisited in A Thousand Acres both containing universal themes in which societies from past to present can identify with. Tragedy is a form of drama that depicts the suffering of a heroic individual who is often overcome by the very obstacles he is struggling to remove. The novel and play each contain distinct tragic elements that lead to the development of similar characters, plot, and images but both have distinct themes. A Thousand Acres provides a new interpretation of Shakespeare's classic tragedy allowing the…show more content…

He is upset about not having inheritance so comes up with a plan to convince Edgar, Gloucester's legitimate son, that his father is angry with him. Edmund gives a false letter to his father, which says that Edgar is proposing that they kill their father Gloucester so they will be able to split the inheritance between them. This letter convinces Gloucester that he is unable to trust Edgar.

As the subplot develops Edmund purposely hurts himself in order to make it appear like Edgar has attacked him. Gloucester becomes fearful for his own safety so he promises to find a way to make Edmund his heir. After going into the woods Edgar decides that he will dress up in disguise himself as a beggar named Poor Tom so his father will not recognize him. While this is happening, Cornwall, Regan's husband, orders Kent to be placed in the stocks. Lear arrives to learn that Regan has teamed up with Goneril in seeking to reduce his authority. Lear becomes angry and reminds the girls that he is the one responsible for their shares of the kingdom.

Frustrated with his daughters Lear calls for his horse and rides into the storm with his Fool for protection. The loyal Fool realizes the harshness of the storm and attempts to reason with his king. Lear will not listen and does not want any part of submission. Soon the two run into Edgar who is disguised as Poor Tom.

Gloucester, unaware that Edmund is a traitor, tells of the plot to save the king.

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