Literature Study GuidesA Thousand AcresBook 1 Chapters 5 7 Summary

A Thousand Acres | Study Guide

Jane Smiley

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A Thousand Acres | Book 1, Chapters 5–7 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 5

As she always does, Ginny goes over to her father's house to cook him breakfast. She is surprised to see him returning with banker Marv Carson in a car. Larry assumes Ginny will cook for Marv without asking her, but Marv has a health fetish and talks about his idiosyncratic system for avoiding "toxins" both physical and mental. Ginny thinks about her sister Rose's husband Pete Lewis, whose conflict with Larry made him so angry Pete once broke Rose's arm. Larry's offer will please Pete as much as it does her own husband Ty, but Ginny is still worried about her father's plan. Nevertheless, Larry says the legal papers are in the works.

Chapter 6

Ginny meets Caroline at church and tries to convince her to apologize to Larry. Caroline refuses, saying his decision to give away the farm is impetuous and bad for him. Ginny warns her this could turn into a lifelong resentment between Caroline and her father. "This isn't a question of right and wrong," Ginny says. But Caroline thinks it is and refuses to budge. Irritated by her sister's stubbornness, Ginny decides maybe her dad's decision is for the best after all.

Chapter 7

After church everyone gathers at Larry's house to watch him sign the incorporation papers, and it is like a party. Jess Clark tells her, "Change is good." Her nieces Linda and Pammy Lewis are home from boarding school and everyone looks and acts happy: even Larry, which relieves Ginny. The chapter ends, as does this section of the book, with Caroline coming up to the back porch. Ginny thinks Caroline has a conciliatory look on her face and perhaps she has come to her senses and is going to apologize to her father after all. But Larry slams the door in Caroline's face before she can say a word, and she takes off in her car.

Analysis

The final three chapters of this section are short and fast-paced, moving as quickly as Larry does once his mind is made up to sign the legal papers deeding his farm to Ginny and Rose. Ginny makes a rapid transition in these chapters as well. In Chapter 5 she worries about whether it's a good idea to accept her father's gift of the farm, but already in Chapter 6 she changes her mind, after arguing with Caroline, and decides it's for the best. By Chapter 7 Larry has signed the papers, and angrily refused to see Caroline, thus changing the power dynamic in the Cook family in ways he has not anticipated.

Because the author has such a deft hand, it is easy to overlook another thematic thread in these chapters. When banker Marv Carson goes on and on about his obsession with toxins, at first it may seem like a bit of comic relief. In fact, some commentators (though not all) compare Marv to the character of the Fool in King Lear. The significance of Jess Clark's comment about wanting to farm organically can get lost in his self-important lecture about so-called "Far Eastern" thought. But Marv's concern about toxins and Jess's desire to try organic farming are not unrelated. One of the themes in the novel is the detrimental impact, both on the environment at large and on the individual characters in the book, of the many potent chemical pesticides and fertilizers used by Larry, Harold, and all the local farmers.

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