A Thousand Acres

A Thousand Acres

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Harold Clark Character Analysis

Larry Cook’s neighbor and friendly rival, and father to Loren Clark and Jess Clark. Harold Clark is a seemingly easygoing, eccentric old farmer, but on closer inspection, he’s surprisingly shrewd and perceptive. Over the years, he’s maintained a steady rivalry with Larry, so that both men make a show of buying expensive equipment and property in order to outdo the other. Harold, Jess claims, projects an image of idiosyncrasy in order to disguise his true, serious nature. And yet, unlike his son, Jess, he can’t stand change or uncertainty of any kind. After Larry turns against his daughters, Harold is one of the first to take Larry’s side, revealing his own sexist beliefs in the process. Harold corresponds to the character of Gloucester in King Lear.

Harold Clark Quotes in A Thousand Acres

The A Thousand Acres quotes below are all either spoken by Harold Clark or refer to Harold Clark . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
King Lear and Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Anchor Books edition of A Thousand Acres published in 2003.
Book 1, Chapter 4 Quotes

At the pig roast, Jess Clark and the new machinery were Harold’s twin exhibits, and guests from all over the area couldn’t resist, had no reason to resist, the way he ferried them between the two, asking for and receiving admiration with a kind of shameless innocence that he was known for.

Related Characters: Ginny Cook Smith (speaker), Harold Clark , Jess Clark
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:

Early on, Smiley gives us a vivid sense of the competitiveness and nosiness of small-town farm life. Because the community is pretty tiny population-wise, everybody knows about everybody else—there’s a constant surveillance process going on. When Jess Clark, Harold Clark’s “prodigal son,” returns from years of draft dodging and traveling, Harold makes sure he throws a party to prove to everybody that his family is strong: whether or nor he’s actually angry with his son, he wants to demonstrate to others that he’s proud of Jess and happy to have him home. As far as other neighbors are concerned, Jess is a “prop” for Harold, equated in the passage with Harold’s prized new tractor (a mark of his wealth and sophistication as a farmer). Harold wants to prove to other people in the community that he’s a successful man and a good father—there’s no better way to do both than to host a big party and invite everybody.

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Book 2, Chapter 15 Quotes

“Now that I’m back, after all those years away, I’m really amazed at how good Harold is at manipulating the way people think of him.”

Related Characters: Jess Clark (speaker), Harold Clark
Page Number: 108
Explanation and Analysis:

Jess Clark, returned to the country after many years, notices that his father, Harold Clark has cultivated a certain image of himself: Harold presents himself as a bumbling older man, a little eccentric, and not to be taken totally seriously. As Jess points out, however, Harold is a lot shrewder than he lets on: in reality, he’s hard working, quick-witted, and insightful. Harold just pretends to be an old eccentric because he knows that such a persona is a good way to convince people to leave him alone. Harold knows that it’s hard to find privacy in a small community—and he does this by pretending to be weirder than he really is.

It’s also important to notice that it’s Jess who sees through Harold—this is probably for two reasons. First, and most obviously, Jess is Harold’s son; Jess has seen Harold when he’s not in public, and knows more about what kind of man his father really is. Second, and more interestingly, Jess might be a fellow manipulator. Smiley never gives us much of an idea what Jess is “really” like (our impressions of him are nearly always filtered through Ginny’s adoring eyes), but she leaves open the likely possibility that he’s a shrewd, manipulative, and devious person, just like his dad.

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Harold Clark Character Timeline in A Thousand Acres

The timeline below shows where the character Harold Clark appears in A Thousand Acres. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 1, Chapter 1
Women, Sexual Abuse, and Fertility Theme Icon
Inheritance, Land, and Memory Theme Icon
...the Clarks, who have two sons, Loren and Jess. The narrator’s father is friends with Harold Clark, Loren and Jess’s father. (full context)
Women, Sexual Abuse, and Fertility Theme Icon
Inheritance, Land, and Memory Theme Icon
...the Ericsons’ young child, for instance, she noticed that the Ericsons’ property is technically on Harold Clark’s territory, meaning that it should be Clark’s. She also felt a strong sense that... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 4
King Lear and Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Inheritance, Land, and Memory Theme Icon
Appearance vs. Reality Theme Icon
Harold Clark’s house, according to Ginny, is more or less identical to her own father’s. Clark’s... (full context)
King Lear and Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Women, Sexual Abuse, and Fertility Theme Icon
Inheritance, Land, and Memory Theme Icon
Ginny comes to Harold Clark’s house, where she finds Rose, Caroline, and Larry. Larry is explaining his plan to... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 7
Inheritance, Land, and Memory Theme Icon
Appearance vs. Reality Theme Icon
Ginny hears Ty driving back: she sees that he’s found Harold and Loren. Another car pulls up, carrying Marv Carson and Ken LaSalle (Larry’s lawyer and... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 8
King Lear and Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Women, Sexual Abuse, and Fertility Theme Icon
Inheritance, Land, and Memory Theme Icon
Appearance vs. Reality Theme Icon
...a deal whereby Cal would make fresh cream and ice cream in return for which Harold and Larry would repair his machines. Larry seemed to dislike Cal because his only ambition... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 11
King Lear and Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Inheritance, Land, and Memory Theme Icon
Appearance vs. Reality Theme Icon
...talks about his admiration for Jimmy Carter. Ginny asks Jess if he’ll move in with Harold now that he’s back in town, but Jess says he doesn’t know. He also mentions... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 12
Women, Sexual Abuse, and Fertility Theme Icon
Inheritance, Land, and Memory Theme Icon
Revenge Theme Icon
Appearance vs. Reality Theme Icon
One night, Jess comes over for Monopoly with Rose and Pete, and says that Harold is planning to remodel his house using concrete in the kitchen—a plan that everyone finds... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 14
Women, Sexual Abuse, and Fertility Theme Icon
Inheritance, Land, and Memory Theme Icon
Appearance vs. Reality Theme Icon
...incredibly handsome, and wooed Ginny’s mother with great skill. She also remembers an accident that Harold Clark had in his truck, when she was a little girl. Larry told Ginny to... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 15
Inheritance, Land, and Memory Theme Icon
Appearance vs. Reality Theme Icon
Harold Clark is a strange, contradictory man, Ginny thinks. He loves showing off with his new... (full context)
King Lear and Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Inheritance, Land, and Memory Theme Icon
Pete, who’s also playing Monopoly, announces that he’s talked to Harold recently: Harold is thinking about changing around his will. Ginny knows that Harold’s current will... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 17
King Lear and Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Women, Sexual Abuse, and Fertility Theme Icon
Inheritance, Land, and Memory Theme Icon
Appearance vs. Reality Theme Icon
...child was: Ginny immediately replies that it’s always been Caroline. Ginny then asks Jess who Harold’s favorite child is, and he replies, “Me.” Jess notes that Harold is always suspicious of... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 21
Women, Sexual Abuse, and Fertility Theme Icon
Appearance vs. Reality Theme Icon
Harold Clark begins to talk about changing his will. One afternoon Ginny is driving Linda and... (full context)
Women, Sexual Abuse, and Fertility Theme Icon
Inheritance, Land, and Memory Theme Icon
Appearance vs. Reality Theme Icon
One day, shortly afterwards, Jess, Harold, and Loren come by to drop off some frozen supplies with Ty and Ginny. Jess... (full context)
Inheritance, Land, and Memory Theme Icon
...says goodbye to Ginny, he mentions to Ginny that he’s planning to farm organically on Harold’s property after Harold’s death. That night, Ginny and Ty have intense sex, but Ginny thinks... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 25
King Lear and Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Inheritance, Land, and Memory Theme Icon
Appearance vs. Reality Theme Icon
...cry. Jess explains that Larry has been wandering around all night. He eventually wandered to Harold’s house, where he yelled until Loren found him there. Larry was yelling about Rose and... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 26
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
After Marv’s visit, Harold Clark stops by to tell Ginny that there’s a problem: Larry refuses to visit with... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 28
Women, Sexual Abuse, and Fertility Theme Icon
Inheritance, Land, and Memory Theme Icon
Appearance vs. Reality Theme Icon
...and go to church, where they find Larry, looking oddly submissive and weak. Larry and Harold wander around the potluck together, greeting various people they know. Rose doesn’t speak to Larry... (full context)
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
...description of homes for the elderly, insisting that the conditions are horrible. Then he rejoins Harold and walks away. Shaken, Rose insists that Larry is trying his hardest to embarrass his... (full context)
Women, Sexual Abuse, and Fertility Theme Icon
Inheritance, Land, and Memory Theme Icon
...food and sits down to enjoy the meal. Rose and Ginny sit near Larry and Harold and try to make conversation with their father, but he ignores them. Harold says that... (full context)
Women, Sexual Abuse, and Fertility Theme Icon
Inheritance, Land, and Memory Theme Icon
Revenge Theme Icon
Rose and Ginny leave the potluck—Harold Clark’s insults have left them unable to talk to their father. The sisters feel that... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 29
Women, Sexual Abuse, and Fertility Theme Icon
Inheritance, Land, and Memory Theme Icon
Appearance vs. Reality Theme Icon
...tells Ginny and Rose that he needs a new place to stay while Larry and Harold calm down. Rose tells him to stay in Larry’s own house, though not in Larry’s... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 30
King Lear and Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Women, Sexual Abuse, and Fertility Theme Icon
Inheritance, Land, and Memory Theme Icon
Appearance vs. Reality Theme Icon
A few days later, Harold has a bad accident. He’s driving his tractor and there’s a malfunction in one of... (full context)
King Lear and Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Women, Sexual Abuse, and Fertility Theme Icon
Inheritance, Land, and Memory Theme Icon
Revenge Theme Icon
Ty tells Ginny about Harold’s blindness, and seems angry that Ginny isn’t more sympathetic. Ginny goes to tell Rose about... (full context)
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
...wants.” Rose reminds Jess of how his mother would be excessively timid and meek around Harold—now Jess is making the same mistake, changing his behavior in the hopes that Harold will... (full context)
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
After their conversation, Ginny, Rose, and Jess don’t visit Harold in the hospital at all. When Ginny sees Loren, they don’t talk. Then, one day,... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 34
King Lear and Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Women, Sexual Abuse, and Fertility Theme Icon
Inheritance, Land, and Memory Theme Icon
Appearance vs. Reality Theme Icon
...spending his time shopping with Caroline. Larry tells Caroline that they should head back to Harold Clark’s place—and they all leave the store. (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 36
Women, Sexual Abuse, and Fertility Theme Icon
Inheritance, Land, and Memory Theme Icon
Revenge Theme Icon
Appearance vs. Reality Theme Icon
...she barely notices the days going by. However, in August, Pete has an argument with Harold. He yells at Harold and points a gun at him. Then, he drives away, very... (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 37
Inheritance, Land, and Memory Theme Icon
Revenge Theme Icon
Appearance vs. Reality Theme Icon
...Ginny notes that it would be some time before she heard about Pete’s argument with Harold, or his heavy drinking. (full context)