A Thousand Acres

A Thousand Acres


Jane Smiley

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A Thousand Acres: Book 4, Chapter 31 Summary & Analysis

Ginny remembers a time when Caroline was fourteen years old. Caroline was performing in a school play, and in rehearsals she wasn’t any good in her role, which was a sexy, free-spirited flapper. But when she performed on stage, she became totally convincing in her role. Caroline made sure that Larry never saw her perform. Caroline also joined her debate team, and did very well in school.
Caroline carefully guarded her sexuality from the rest of her family, especially her father. Rose and Ginny also protected Caroline from Larry’s advances—as a result, Caroline learned to channel her sexuality into theater and performance. The fact that Caroline made sure Larry never saw her in her “sexy” role suggests that she too may have been aware of his incestuous, abusive tendencies.
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Back in the present, Ginny learns that Caroline is helping Larry sue her and Rose, citing the revocation clause of the corporation agreement. Several days after hearing the news, Ginny calls Caroline, and Caroline tells Ginny that she can’t talk about the lawsuit. Caroline tells Ginny that she should never have sent Larry out into the storm. Ginny insists that Larry stubbornly walked out himself. Caroline hints that she’s heard different, both from Larry and from Ty. Angrily, Ginny reminds Caroline that years ago, she and Rose “did everything for you!” Caroline says “that’s not the issue,” and hangs up.
The irony of the chapter is that Caroline—the only daughter who doesn’t know about Larry’s sexual abuse—is helping Larry sue her two sisters, the victims of Larry’s abuse. The dynamic of King Lear, in which Lear and Cordelia are the “good guys,” is twisted—but, crucially, not perfectly reversed. Ginny and Rose aren’t exactly the villains, but they’re not exactly the heroes either (their greed and desire for revenge is seemingly starting to corrupt them as well).
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