Throughout the second half of the novel, Ginny and Rose are motivated by the desire to get revenge on their father for abusing them when they were teenagers. Perhaps surprisingly, Ginny and Rose don’t try to get their revenge on Larry by simply telling people about his crimes—as Rose says, their vengeance must be more personal and “total.” Instead, Ginny and Rose attempt to get revenge by reshaping the farmland Larry gives them and by treating Larry with condescension and contempt; in short, rubbing Larry’s face in his own powerlessness after he has given up his land.
Ginny and Rose’s attempts to humiliate their father illustrate an important idea portrayed in the novel: revenge may be rooted in the legitimate need for justice (certainly, Larry deserves to be severely punished for his crimes), but ultimately it also corrupts the people seeking vengeance. As Ginny and Rose become increasingly hell-bent on defeating Larry, they begin to feel the “seduction” of revenge and, more generally, of cruelty and selfishness. As a result, they begin to treat other people (not just their rapist father) cruelly. Ginny and Rose succeed in “humiliating” Larry in a court dispute over the farmland, driving him further into senility, but in the process of pursuing this vengeance, they turn on each other. For instance, Ginny jealously attempts to murder Rose as revenge for Rose’s decision to sleep with Ginny’s former lover, Jess Clark. Once Ginny has established a “precedent” for revenge against one of her family members, her father, she begins seeking revenge against another family member, Rose, seemingly for a much more forgivable offense.
In addition, the characters’ attempts at vengeance – successful and otherwise – ultimately fail to bring the desired results. Ginny and Rose’s “victory” over Larry doesn't bring them any peace. On the contrary, Ginny’s “addiction” to revenge has torn her and Rose apart. Moreover, Ginny remains haunted by her father’s abuse, even decades later. Revenge has not helped Ginny move past Larry’s crimes; its primary consequence has been to destroy her life and connection to others even more thoroughly.
Revenge Quotes in A Thousand Acres
After you’ve confided long enough in someone, he or she assumes the antagonism you might have just been trying out. It was better for now to keep this conversation to myself.
She wore a cast for eight weeks, and she made a sleeve for it with the words PETE DID THIS, glued on it in felt letters.
It was exhilarating, talking to my father as if he were my child, more than exhilarating to see him as my child.
I flattered you when I called you a bitch! What do you want to reduce me to? I’ll stop this building! I’ll get the land back! I’ll throw you whores off this place. You’ll learn what it means to treat your father like this. I curse you!
“He didn’t rape me, Ginny. He seduced me. He said it was okay, that it was good to please me, that he needed it, that I was special. He said he loved me.”
I said, “I can’t listen to this.”
“He won’t get away with it, Ginny. I won’t let him get away with it. I just won’t.”
It was incredible to hear Rose speak like this, but it was intoxicating, too, as sweet and forbidden as anything I had ever done.
One of the jars of sausage was close to the edge of the table. I pushed it back and looked at Jess again. For the first time in weeks what was unbearable felt bearable.
I continued to behave as if I was living in the sight of all our neighbors, as Mr. Cartier had told us to. I waited for Rose to die, but the weather was warm for sauerkraut and liver sausage—that was a winter dish.
One thing was surely true about going to court. It had marvelous divided us from each other and from our old lives. There could be no reconciliation now.
Ty yelled, “I gave my life to this place!”
Without looking around at him, I yelled back, “Now it’s yours!”
I had a burden lift off me that I hadn’t even felt the heaviness of until then, and it was the burden of having to wait and see what was going to happen…
I can’t say that I forgive my father, but now I can imagine what he probably chose never to remember—the goad of an unthinkable urge, pricking him, pressing him wrapping him in an impenetrable fog of self that must have seemed, when he wandered around the house late at night after working and drinking, like the very darkness. This is the gleaming obsidian shaft I safeguard above all the others.