A Thousand Acres

A Thousand Acres

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A Thousand Acres Book 3, Chapter 24 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
It’s raining hard, and the family is trying to figure out what to do about Larry. Eventually, Pete and Ty agree to go check if Larry has found his way back to his own place or Rose’s place.
Rose and Ginny don’t want to go looking for their father; they’re still shocked by their father’s sudden expressions of hatred and sexist scorn.
Themes
King Lear and Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Women, Sexual Abuse, and Fertility Theme Icon
Ginny has been shocked by her father calling her a whore—she wonders if he could possibly know about her affair with Jess. Inside the house, Rose says that Larry is clearly crazy. The phone rings, and Ty reports that Larry is nowhere to be found.
Ginny feels guilty about her affair with Jess, and in her panic over the insult “whore,” she guesses that Larry knows about it (though that seems incredibly unlikely). The passage suggests that Ginny still fears her father, and on some level ascribes total power to him.
Themes
Women, Sexual Abuse, and Fertility Theme Icon
Inheritance, Land, and Memory Theme Icon
Revenge Theme Icon
Rose and Ginny continue talking about Larry. Rose remembers the time after Mrs. Cook died, when Larry would come into his daughters’ rooms and “came after” them. Ginny claims she can’t remember this, and Rose indignantly shouts that Larry used to have sex with Ginny when Ginny was a teenager. Rose used to watch Larry go into Ginny room and come out shortly afterwards. Ginny insists that she can remember nothing of the kind. Rose admits that Larry used to have sex with her, too, when she was thirteen years old. As far as Rose knows, Larry never had sex with Caroline.
The horrible truth starts to emerge in the climactic setting of the storm: Rose admits that her own father raped her years ago. At this point, however, it seems that Ginny either wasn’t raped or can’t remember being raped. Rose, whether because she was younger at the time or because she chose hatred over repression, doesn’t ever forget her father’s crimes—thus, she despises her father and takes every opportunity to get revenge on him (unlike Ginny). To state the obvious, Larry becomes a much less sympathetic character after this passage, and the main twist in Smiley’s interpretation of King Lear comes to light—the “Regan” and “Goneril” characters are hardly epitomes of evil (as they are in the play), but have in fact turned out this way because of the story’s true monster—“Lear” himself.
Themes
King Lear and Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Women, Sexual Abuse, and Fertility Theme Icon
Inheritance, Land, and Memory Theme Icon
Revenge Theme Icon
Appearance vs. Reality Theme Icon
Rose continues to tell Ginny about Larry’s sexual abuse. In high school, Rose felt that it was her mission to distract Larry from Caroline. She claims that Larry didn’t rape her—he seduced her, claiming that it was her duty as a daughter to pleasure him. Rose has told few people about her father’s sexual abuse: she told Pete after Pete broke her arm. She even sent her daughters away to boarding school so that they’d see as little of Larry as possible.
Rose’s resentment for her father seemed petty and unmerited at first, but now it seems perfectly reasonable and justified. The passage makes another interesting twist on Lear: in the play, Cordelia is the only truly good daughter; in Smiley’s novel, however, Rose and Ginny are the ones behaving most selflessly in their defense of Caroline, Linda, and Pamela.
Themes
King Lear and Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Women, Sexual Abuse, and Fertility Theme Icon
Inheritance, Land, and Memory Theme Icon
Revenge Theme Icon
Appearance vs. Reality Theme Icon
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Ginny doesn’t know what to say to Rose, except, “It didn’t happen to me.” Rose hisses that she won’t let Larry get away with abusing her for so many years.
Rose is going to get her revenge on Larry, no matter what it takes. She wants to “bury” her father—erase his awful memory from what is now her farmland. The question becomes: why doesn’t she just go to the police? Presumably, Rose wants her revenge to be total and personal—she wants to take away Larry’s land (which is, in part, rightfully hers), render him totally powerless, and wipe away his memory forever. Also, in the late 1970s (as, unfortunately, often still today), it’s not clear that anyone would believe Rose’s charges even she did make them official. (Later in the novel, for example, Ty doesn’t believe his own wife’s account of Larry’s abuse).
Themes
King Lear and Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Women, Sexual Abuse, and Fertility Theme Icon
Inheritance, Land, and Memory Theme Icon
Revenge Theme Icon