Originally, A Thousand Acres was released as a novel written by Jane Smiley; a Pulitzer Prize winning author. Later the novel was written into a movie by Laura Jones. The similarities and differences in both of these works are ironically unique; they both portray the havoc, the turmoil and the dysfunction that so many families have been plagued with for centuries. The perplexity and bewilderment that was revealed in King Lear has also been revived in the Cook family in A Thousand Acres. The tempestuous situation between a parent and a child is different then the turbulent situations between sisters.
The turbulence between the immediate family members in both of the works is parallel. For example, the dictionary gives several definitions for a storm. The definitions that apply are, a storm is “(1) any strong disturbance, (2) strong attack, (3) rage, and (4) a rush or attack violently” (Webster’s 277). Metaphorically speaking, it is as if there are storms fermenting with the daughters and the fathers of these families. Although, some of the characters in the movie Dadds 2are different from the way Shakespeare portrayed his characters in King Lear centuries ago, the reader still receives the same message from the story line. In comparison to A Thousand Acres, Shakespeare’s characters are often noticeably good or evil (Levin).
To clarify this point, the King in the play is measured as royalty. The movie portrays the father Larry, admired by many, and the town’s people see him as a Saint, also a form of royalty (Smiley). Although the movie depicts a certain good quality in Larry, in relation to his friends, two of his daughters know differently. In the movie A Thousand Acres Larry has three daughters Ginny, Rose and Caroline. The two oldest daughters do not view him the same way his youngest daughter does. It is quite obvious through the writers’ point of view that he favors the youngest, Caroline.
Larry decides to relinquish his estate to his daughters, only to realize he has made a serious miscalculation in judgment. Caroline showed great uncertainty about accepting Larry’s offer; only to be disowned because of her hesitation towards her father’s proposal. In the same way, the King in the play also had three daughters, and he favored his youngest daughter, Cordelia. “Lear does not run mad till the third act, yet his behavior towards his beloved Cordelia in the first scene has all the appearance of a judgment totally depraved. What less then phrenzy can inspire a rage so groundless and a conduct so absurd” (Lennox).
This was the start of the storm that was to brew between the family members. In the meantime, Jane Smiley tells the reader that Caroline understood her father unlike her sisters, Ginny and Rose. She felt that dividing the farm was not a good move emotionally because farming was Larry’s life and what else would he do with himself (Smiley). She tried relentlessly to convince Dadds 3her sisters of his mistake, but to no avail.
They had their own agenda. The rage and contempt was beginning to transform between Caroline and her sisters. Similarly, in Shakespeare’s play he writes about the “Fool”. Consequently, later in the play we find out through assumption that the “Fool” is Cordelia. She is the only daughter whom has been brutally honest with the King and cares about his interest.
Shakespeare writes, ” Blow, winds and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!”(ACT III Scene 2). He uses images and descriptions to emphasize the turbulence in the King’s life. Later in the play, through other circumstances the King realizes in the midst of his madness, he has made an error in judgment to trust Regan and Goneril, and to disown Cordelia. “Let not women’s weapons, water-drops, Stain my man’s cheeks! (ACT II Scene 4). In King Lear Shakespeare tells us, the daughters relinquished the King out into a stormy night. The turmoil that Shakespeare writes about becomes apparent through Jane smiley’s version on the screen.
However, in the movie A Thousand Acres, Ginny and Rose tried to bring Larry in out of the storm and help him. The imagery that was used to portray the storm scene gives the viewer the sense that the storm was not just literally outside, but also within Larry’s mind. He had realized his loss of control that he once held over his daughters and now they had control over him. Unlike the play, the daughters were keeping a deep dark family secret about incest. In short, this was their way of having control over the man that had control over them for so long. A literary scholar stated, “Where Lear alone to suffer from his daughters, the impression would be limited to the powerful compassion felt by us for his private misfortune” (Schlegel, Augustus).
The daughters had stripped Larry of his pride and joy, his passion and also, his land. Dadds 4For this reason, the rage and contempt that Rose felt for her father was becoming agonizing for her deal with. Rose tells Ginny, “He deserves to burn in hell for what he has put us through all these years, and we deserve this land we have earned it”(A Thousand Acres). The writers’ portrayal of Rose gives the viewer the sense of her own torment.
She was an uncontrollable storm inside filled with hatred for her father. All of the daughters have their own similes that are interconnected to the reader and the viewer. Caroline, the youngest of the three can be described as the calm before the storm. She has no idea of what has taken place in the past, and doesn’t really want to go back to find out. All she can perceive is the calmness and serenity of childhood.
Ginny, the oldest can be best described as the calm after the storm, waiting inadvertently and naively of what may happen next, she comes to remember the way it was before the storm started. Finally Rose, the middle daughter can be best described as the raging storm in motion. She is always on the look out to see when she can strike again. Like wise, Rose was parallel to the King’s daughter, Regan in the play (ACT II). In conclusion, the stormy situations that took place in the lives of Larry Cook’s daughters were going to plague them until they died. The turbulence that they endured stuck with them through the other relationships they had in life.
Unfortunately, Rose was unable to get past the damage that Larry had caused for her and her sisters since childhood. Thus, Rose won the battle over the land she went to her death bed not only fighting the cancer that eventually took her life but, fighting to make sure Caroline knew the truth about their father. Caroline moved on with her life and cared for Larry until the day he died, not ever knowing the truth about him. This was due in part to Ginny, who felt it was time to stop looking back and move forward to the future. She Dadds 5wanted to pass the hope on to her nieces, the hope that she and Rose never had when they were growing up. Equally in King Lear, It also had a tragic ending.
The contempt and hatred was the ruin that plagued the characters in the play until their deaths. Dadds 6Works CitedAgnes, Michael ed. Chief -“Webster’s New World Pocket Dictionary” Cleveland, OH. A Simon and Schuster Macmillan Company 1997 April 2004Jones, Laura- (Screen writer) “A Thousand Acres” Smiley, Jane G. United States 1997 Touchstone Pictures 1997 April 30, 2004Lennox, Charlotte- Charles Wells Moulton 8 vols. “Shakespeare Illustrated” vol.
III p. 287 The Library of Literary Criticism of English and American Authors, ed. Buffalo, NY 2003 Moulton Publishing, 1901 April 27, 2004http://geocities. com/litpageplus/shakmoul-kinglear.
htmlLevin, Richard- “King Lear Defamiliarized”. “Lear From the Study to Stage” Cranbury Associated University Press, 1997 Literature Resource Center. 2004 Galenet Chesapeake College Learning Resource Center, Wye Mills MD. April 27, 2004 http://galenet.
galegroup. com/. Schlegel, Augustus William- Charles Well Moulton 8 vols. “Dramatic Art and Literature, tr.
” Black Lecture XII The Library of Literary Criticism of English and American Authors, ed Buffalo, NY 2003 Moulton Publishing, 1901 April 27, 2004http://geocities. com/litpageplus/shakmoul-kinglear. htmlShakespeare, William “The Tragedy of King Lear” The World of Literature Louise Westling, et al. Boston, MA. Pearson Publishing Co. 1999 April 2004www.
pearsoncustom. comSmiley, Jane G. – (Laura Jones) “A Thousand Acres” Nixon, Lois LaCivita and Wear Delese 12/29/93 Knopf New York, NY ed. 1991 April 26, 2004http://movie-reviews.colossus.net/movies/t/thousand_acres.html