Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Thousand Acres Research Paper

A Thousand Acres Research Paper

The book A Thousand Acres, by Jane Smiley, is characterized by Ginny's growing conflict with her father, Larry. Their conflict comes from the characters needs for control. Ginny realizes that she has had no control over her life and Larry loses control of his life and tries to get it back.

In Larry's ambition to buy all of the land adjacent to his farm he also acquirers a yearning to have complete ownership over everything on the farm. This, of course, includes Ginny and Rose. Larry shows his ownership of Ginny not only by committing incest, but also by controlling her life. She never leaves the farm or goes to college, and she marries a man because he is a good farmer and gets along with Larry. Ginny does not discover that this is the life her father wants and not the life she wants for herself until she has lived this life for many years.


Ginny may not have known consciously that this was not the life she wanted, but she certainly was not satisfied with it. She is not as excited about farm life as her father, Ty, or Pete. When it is her chance to own the farm and experiment with new ideas, like the hogs, she is more worried than excited. Ginny does not enjoy being a farm wife but she was raised knowing that she would one day have a life just like her mothers, always serving others and never herself. She lives to make her family happy and they rarely show appreciation. Larry sees Ginny's attentiveness as a threat to his independence. It takes the chaos of the farm switching hands and an affair with Jess, who has enough distance from the farm to see what is really happening, for her to realize how much she resents that being used by her family.

Ginny is not the only character whose offering is unappreciated. Larry's children cannot understand why he would give up the one thing he lives for, the farm. Larry owns one thousand acres, a large amount of farmland for one family. The work of his life has been to build an empire - complete, efficient, debt-free - and pass it on for his offspring to treasure and maintain. The farm could have continued to provide for his family for many generations. However, as soon as Larry passes the farm on to his daughters and sons-in-law they gamble it on new ideas and techniques with which Larry is not comfortable. What the younger generation sees as a way to take huge steps forward in the farming business, Larry sees as folly and waste.

When Larry gives his farm up to his children he needs to see that he still has control over his family. He tests this by taking long drives without telling anywhere where he is going and by buying furniture he does not need. What Larry finds is that he still has a large amount of control over his family's emotions. However, because of her father's age and drastic behavior, Ginny feels she must exert some authority and take his car keys. Larry sees this as the ultimate loss of control over his life. This is what pushes him off the deep end.

Both Ginny and Larry give the best gifts that they can present to their family, Larry his farm and Ginny her life, only to see their gifts being abused and taken for granted. Larry decides that his family is not fit to run the farm. Ginny realizes that she must start to take her life back. However, they are both gifts that are not easily taken back. As Ginny is just beginning to realize that Larry is not the man she thought he was, Rose uncovers her the rude awakening of their father raping them as children. This shows Ginny just how much her life has been for her father.

The lawsuit over the farm represents both Larry and Ginny trying to win back the control they had given up. It is where the two characters needs come into contrast. Larry cannot have his ideal future unless Ginny continues to play the part of the submissive housewife. Ginny recognizes that the life she has been living isn't enough for her any more. In the end Ginny proves she is stronger than her father. He dies on the edge of insanity while Ginny starts a new life where she has control.

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