A Thousand Acres

A Thousand Acres

A Thousand Acres Book 3, Chapter 18 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Ginny imagines the geological processes that led to the creation of Larry’s farmland: volcanoes and storms that eventually led the soil to become extremely fertile. Growing up, Ginny and her sisters learned hundreds of “lessons” from Larry, all of which tied back to the importance of soil in some way. The goal of the family, Larry always said, was to “consolidate” land through marriages and business deals.
With each chapter, Ginny’s descriptions of the land become more elaborate and far-reaching—here, for example, she thinks of the land as a geological marvel. All of her life has revolved around the soil and the farmland in some way: thus, she feels she has a real claim to owning it. We also see just how businesslike and selfish Larry was in terms of family, and particularly women—a worldview that he passed on in some degree to his children.
Themes
Women, Sexual Abuse, and Fertility Theme Icon
Inheritance, Land, and Memory Theme Icon
Ginny remembers Mel Scott, a poor farmer who didn’t know how to take care of his own land. When Larry was a younger man, Mel fell into debt: he couldn’t afford to pay his own taxes. Desperate, Mel went to Larry for help, and Larry agreed to pay the taxes if Mel signed over all his land to Larry. With no other choice, Mel agreed. Mel’s family was outraged by the deal, but they had no choice but to honor it: a deal is a deal. Larry never spoke of his deal with Mel, suggesting that he was ashamed of having taken advantage of a poorer man.
This passage shows Larry at his most ruthless. Larry is hardly the noble, selfless farmer we’ve been hearing about—he’s actually something of a con artist, desperate to accumulate as much land for himself as possible, even if it involves taking advantage of his poorer neighbors. Larry seems to know that he’s done wrong, which is why he shuts up about it for good.
Themes
King Lear and Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Inheritance, Land, and Memory Theme Icon
Appearance vs. Reality Theme Icon
Larry acquired land from many of his other neighbors. Shortly after his wife died, he bought the Ericsons’ property (the Ericsons moved back to Chicago). Larry never stopped negotiating business deals, even when Mrs. Cook died. Ginny has grown up with one key lesson: land is always moving from one owner to the next.
Larry accumulates farmland as if it’s the only thing in the world that matters—which to him, it often seems, it is. As a result, Ginny thinks of farmland as constantly shifting hands, rather than remaining in the hands of the same family—in saying so, she foreshadows the disintegration of the family bonds that allow the thousand acres to remain in the Cook family. Furthermore, the more we learn about Larry’s greed and selfishness, the less sympathetic he becomes (and the more sympathetic Ginny and Rose become).
Themes
King Lear and Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Women, Sexual Abuse, and Fertility Theme Icon
Inheritance, Land, and Memory Theme Icon