A Thousand Acres: A Novel
A successful Iowa farmer decides to divide his farm between his three daughters. When the youngest objects, she is cut out of his will. This sets off a chain of events that brings dark truths to light and explodes long-suppressed emotions. An ambitious reimagining of Shakespeare’s King Lear cast upon a typical American community in the late twentieth century, A Thousand Acres takes on themes of truth, justice, love, and pride, and reveals the beautiful yet treacherous topography of humanity. From the Trade Paperback edition.
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What can you infer about what Jess has done?
This novel is written in first person point of view. What are some of the pitfalls of this narrative POV? (This annotation contains a video)
Ginny's comment is an example of
In order to understand the current family dynamic, Ginny gives their back story here. This is called exposition.
Harold and Larry's friendship is tinged with
This book is loosely based on William Shakespeare's King Lear. In the play, the king decides to divide his kingdom between his three daughters in order to avoid future conflict. The three sisters in this novel - Ginny, Rose, and Caroline - even share the first initials of the Shakespearean sisters - Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia. (This annotation contains an image)
What is Jess's advice to Ginny?
Consider how Larry's decision affects everyone in the family. What is Ginny's opinion of her father's decision? What does she stand to gain and lose?
How would you describe Larry Cook?
How is Pete different from Ginny's husband, Ty?
Can you identify the protagonist(s) and antagonist(s) in the novel? (This annotation contains a video)
Why does Caroline question her father's decision?
Ginny is attracted to Jess because he is a combination of both the known and unknown. She has known him for years, despite his absence, but he also has knowledge and experiences outside of Zebulon County.
How would you describe Larry's attitude toward Cal?
Here is a graphic that illustrates how tile system farming works. What are the benefits of this kind of drainage according to Ginny? (This annotation contains an image)
Which metaphor best describes Larry's effect on people?
Why do you think Ginny feels so at ease with Jess, even though he has been gone for almost a decade? What does Ginny crave? (This annotation contains an image)
All of the following terms can be used to describe Jess EXCEPT
Jess and Ginny have the shared experience of growing up in somewhat repressed households. Ginny still seems to be pretty emotionally repressed whereas Jess is more open and expressive.
What could possible account for Rose's irritability?
How does this interaction between Ginny and Rose illustrate the distance between them and their sister Caroline? (This annotation contains an image)
What does the highlighted comment reveal about Ginny's life?
How does this make you feel about Caroline? How is her character being developed? (This annotation contains a video)
How would you characterize Larry's response to Rose's important health check up?
It is difficult not to immediately think of Grant Wood's famous painting "American Gothic" (1930) when thinking of traditional Iowa farmers. Is this how you picture Larry Cook (even though the novel takes place about 40 years after Wood painted it)? (This annotation contains an image)
What aspect of this anecdote is connected to Ginny's character?
This is a very vivid image. Can you put into your own words what Jess is feeling? (This annotation contains an image)
What is it about this news story intrigues them the most?
What has Jess added to the family dynamic here? How is Jess different from Pete and Ty?
While somewhat ridiculous, how does Harold's kitchen renovation differ from Larry's?
How is the playing of Monopoly a metaphor? What does it represent? (This annotation contains a video)
Why doesn't Ginny tell Rose that she agrees with her estimation of their father?
Ginny has mentioned her difficulty in making friends before. Outside of her family, Jess is the only person (in awhile, at least) who has offered her friendship. (This annotation contains an image)
What is the significance of Mary's news?
Secrets is one of the themes running throughout the entire novel. What effect do you think this secret will have on Ginny? (This annotation contains a video)
What role does Ginny play in Caroline's childhood?
What act of rebellion is Rose performing this night?
How much of Rose's disappointment with Caroline has to do with resentment? Does Ginny resent Caroline?
What else sits "heavily" in the room?
Do you think that Ty is correct in his estimation of Larry? Does he have anything to fear from his daughters?
This section is an example of which literary element?
Jess suggests that Harold is a skilled performer, and that he is not as ridiculous as he appears. However, it is unlikely that Larry's behavior is a performance; he has nothing to gain from acting crazy.
What role does Ginny often take on among her family?
How would you characterize the usual tone Larry uses when addressing his daughters? (This annotation contains a video)
What is Caroline's tone?
Ginny is conflicted after talking to Caroline. Why are Caroline's accusations unexpected? (This annotation contains an image)
What does this fact illustrate about Jess?
Just like this beautiful flower, appearances can be deceiving. How does this also apply to Ginny? (This annotation contains an image)
What do many people in the town believe about Rose and Ginny?
Is it surprising that Ginny has developed a romantic interest in Jess? Is this development out of character for her?
Which of the following descriptions is an example of a simile?
Ginny mentions that their homestead is a Sears Craftsman home. These kit homes were popular in the early part of the last century. The house would be shipped in pieces, and would then be assembled by the homeowner. Even though Sears stopped selling these kit houses in 1940, many are still standing today. These houses are actually sought after by many because of their history as well as the quality of the building materials. (This annotation contains an image)
What character trait of Ginny's exasperates Rose?
The secrets of the Cook family continue to be peeled back in layers. Has your estimation of characters changed in light of this new information?
What is the gist of Ty's plan for dealing with Larry?
Do you think that Ginny is doing right by her father? What could she do differently?
Taking charge and speaking like this to her father is ___________ for Ginny.
Ginny is reaching here about "legally" taking credit for luck. Larry could still be arrested even though he did not hurt anyone or damage any property.
What does Rose want to hear from Ginny?
What insight is given into Ty's character through this description? (This annotation contains an image)
How is the character of Marv Carson significant to the plot?
Organic farming has become an extremely popular and lucrative form of farming in the past few decades. This novel takes place in the late 1970s, so Jess would have been on the cusp of this booming industry. (This annotation contains an image)
What type of imagery dominates this highlighted section?
Here is another example of how Ginny's isolation has been damaging. If she had a wider circle of friends, or the chance to get a doctor's second opinion, Ginny might have known much sooner about this risk to her pregnancies.
How did they go from wanting 1,000 pigs to financing 4,000 pigs?
How does this scene in the car illustrate both internal and external conflict? (This annotation contains a video)
What is the significance of bringing up Spacelab?
What kind of a daughter does Larry want? Why does his character come across as being pretty static?
What mostly occupies Ginny's thoughts?
Storms are symbolic of tumult and danger. In literature, they also represent the breaking point of conflict. (This annotation contains an image)
Larry finally says more than a few words, and they are filled with
This storm is analogous to the famous storm in King Lear. In the play, the storm represents the state of Lear's mind and his descent into madness. (This annotation contains a video)
What is both surprising and revealing about Rose's fantasy about her mother?
Here is yet another secret revealed. Does this one come as a surprise to you? How does this revelation make sense of the Cook family dynamic?
What is Ginny's reaction to Rose's accusations about their father?
Harold and others in town seem to revel in the misfortunes of others as a form of entertainment. Everyone in this small town knows everyone else's business, and yet there are still some secrets that threaten to destroy the family from within.
Ty's comment is an uncharacteristic use of ___________.
Ginny has the premonition that the future is not something to look forward to. What do you predict the future holds for Ginny?
Why is Ginny incensed at Harold's attitude?
Do you trust Harold? Is he a likely candidate for being a mediator or peacemaker?
What feeling does Ginny allow herself to feel for the first time in awhile?
Ginny has all of these plans to get her family outside help, but remains reluctant to act. Ginny's reluctance could be due to fear of facing the truth, or not wanting to let outsiders privy to family secrets. Can you think of any other explanation? (This annotation contains an image)
What does this sentiment reveal?
Despite Ginny's earlier hopes, there is an atmosphere of tension between Larry and his daughters. Does it appear as if Harold's scheme to get them together will go accordingly to plan?
Which answer states the effect of this metaphor?
Harold has orchestrated this scene to take place in front of pretty much the entire town. What does he have to gain from this? (This annotation contains an image)
Which option below does Ginny hope to find by looking around her fathers house?
This is indicative of Ginny's tendency to compartmentalize her life. She only takes things in separate parts - once she is upstairs, it is as if the downstairs does not exist at all.
Why doesn't Ginny confide in Rose about her memories?
Harold is an analogue to Gloucester in 'King Lear.' Gloucester's "blindness" is both metaphorical in that he is blind to the true intention of others, as well as physical when his eyes are literally plucked out. (This annotation contains an image)
How does Rose feel about Larry's madness?
Can you identify how the novel might be different if one of the Cook siblings was male?
What aspect of her relationship with Caroline does Ginny recall in this instance?
These memories of how Ginny supported and nurtured Caroline, almost like a mother, make these lawsuit papers feel even more like a betrayal.
Why does Ginny feel like the town is repelling her?
Have you noticed any examples of foreshadowing? (This annotation contains a video)
What is Ginny's stance on secrets?
There is a glaring lack of communication between Ty and Ginny. How is this an emerging theme in the novel? (This annotation contains a video)
What worry does this add to Ginny's growing list?
This secret is finally out in the open, and Ginny and Ty are finally communicating. Is this a positive development for their relationship?
What "truth" didn't come out?
Now it is clear why Ty was paying the men to work overtime. He knew that this injunction to stop work on the buildings until their case was settled would be coming.
What motivates Henry?
What do you think Ginny hopes to accomplish by driving around Cabot?
What does Roberta's store have in common with the Cook farm?
In 'King Lear,' Lear and Cordelia are the more sympathetic characters who are more wronged than wrong. Is this also the case in this novel? How much does the singular point of view of the narration influence the reader's perception? (This annotation contains an image)
What can be said about memory?
The memories are flooding back now, but Ginny must have repressed these traumatic memories as a coping mechanism. This is not uncommon those who have been abused as children.
How would you describe the tone of this meeting?
The idea that Rose and Ginny have to put on a show for the town further develops the theme of appearances and how performance hides reality. (This annotation contains an image)
Why is it unclear whether or not Pete committed suicide?
Pammy and Linda are peripheral characters, so it is sometimes easy to forget how all of this family strife affects them. Arguably, it might be better if they were to return to boarding school to escape all of the hostility.
How were Ginny, Rose, and Caroline encouraged to deal with their mother's death?
Is Henry the only character who wishes for reconciliation? Do any members of the family actually want to make amends?
How is Rose coping with Pete's death?
So, Rose has also been having an affair with Jess. Does this make you question Jess's motivations and friendship with the Cooks?
What is disturbing about this revelation about Pete's actions (in addition to the fact that a person was permanently blinded)?
How is everything falling apart for Ginny? Consider what Rose has taken away from Ginny by revealing her relationship with Jess.
What is the intended effect of the nickname "girly"?
In addition to Caroline, now Ginny feels betrayed by Jess. His openness and kindness that she once craved now makes her angry.
What is the driving force that leads Ginny to contemplate murdering Rose?
Ginny is actually going to go through with it! Did you expect that Ginny's character would take such a dark turn when you started reading the book? (This annotation contains an image)
What is this a list of?
Based on Larry's behavior, who do you think the court will rule in favor of? (This annotation contains an image)
How have all members of the family acted?
This was a pretty open and shut case. Larry's erratic behavior proves that he is incapable of running the farm if he were to regain control.
How are Ginny and Ty celebrating their win at court?
This metaphor is quite the ringing endorsement for breakfast food. Is this hyperbolic, or completely true? (This annotation contains an image)
What does Ginny revel in her new life?
This story highlights the downturn of family farms and the rise of factory farming. How was the Cook farm prime for this shift in farming?
It is somewhat ironic that it is Rose that now has sole ownership of the farm. (This annotation contains a video)
What has all of this conflict and change done to Ty?
Rose has changed in the time since Ginny has left. She was forced to become more invested in the running of the farm. Now that she is ill, do you see Ginny wanting to move back and take over?
How does Ginny feel about being back at the farm?
Rose knows that she is going to die. She wants to make sure that she does not repeat the same mistakes as her own mother.
Why did Jess leave Rose?
Ginny unburdens herself by telling Rose that she plotted to kill her. Is Rose's reaction to this news what you expected?
What is implied by Caroline's statement?
Caroline still holds a grudge against her sisters and only wants items that belonged to "daddy." Caroline was spared of knowing how terrible her father really was through the protection of Rose and Ginny. Why doesn't Ginny tell her about how abusive their father was?
How does this conversation prove that Ginny has been successful?
How would you describe the pacing of this last part of the book? Has it slowed down or sped up? (This annotation contains a video)
What has happened to the thousand acres of the Cook farm?
How does Ginny view her former self? Does she finally have some hope for her future?