Literature Study GuidesA Thousand AcresBook 3 Chapters 24 26 Summary

A Thousand Acres | Study Guide

Jane Smiley

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A Thousand Acres | Book 3, Chapters 24–26 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 24

As the storm continues, Ginny feels awkward because Ty didn't say anything to support her when her father was calling her such vile names. It makes her wonder if Ty or Larry know about her affair with Jess.

With their husbands out looking for Larry and with the girls upstairs, Ginny and Rose are alone together, speculating about what has set Larry off. Rose says to Ginny, "You don't remember how he came after us, do you?" At first Ginny thinks Rose is talking about how Larry used to whip them with his belt. But Rose says no, she is talking about when he came into their bedrooms at night when they were teenagers, after their mother died. Ginny crosses her legs and tries not to understand what her sister is implying, but Rose is relentless. She says not only did Larry have sex with her for four years, he also had sex with Ginny when she was 15. Appalled, Ginny denies this because she has no memory of it. Although she thinks Rose is wrong about Larry abusing her, she nevertheless seems to believe Rose is telling the truth about herself. Ginny then asks if Larry abused Caroline as well, and Rose says she doesn't think so. Although he used to tell Rose if she refused him, he would go after Caroline instead.

Ginny accuses Rose of a desire for the sex, and Rose admits she was flattered to be their father's favorite: "He didn't rape me, Ginny. He seduced me." But as Rose presses Ginny to admit she was abused as well, Rose explains neither love nor lust had anything to do with the incest. "We were just his, to do with as he pleased, like the pond or the houses or the hogs or the crops," Rose says in a devastating line. She told her husband Pete about it, and that's why they send their daughters to boarding school, to protect them from Larry.

Ginny struggles to process what Rose is telling her, veering from disbelief to shocked sympathy for Rose. But she still doesn't believe it happened to her as well. She truly has no memory of it.

Chapter 25

The storm abates but Rose is still at Ginny's house when Jess shows up, telling them Larry is over at Harold's house. He showed up raving and immediately called his banker Marv and the family attorney, Ken LaSalle, who are there now.

Not realizing Larry has been found, Ty stays out until dawn looking for him. Pete is so angry with Larry he says he wants to shoot him. Now there is a new distance, a new coolness between Ginny and Ty. She says this is the start of a formal new relationship between them, built not of love but of duty and loyalty.

Chapter 26

With Larry living at Harold Clark's house, Ginny feels they have to act as if the discord in their family is minor. So they all go into town and shop and sit around the feed store and talk to others about how everything is fine. But Marv Carson comes out and says he's worried about Larry. On the strength of Larry's reputation as an excellent farmer, the bank has made a big loan to Ty to expand the hog operation. And if Larry's mental status hurts the farm, and the family can't make the loan repayments, it will hurt the bank. Ginny just keeps smiling and reassures Marv everything is fine.

Then Harold comes over and tells Ginny she and Rose should apologize to their father. Ginny reminds him about Larry's arrest for drunk driving, and how he stole Pete's truck. Harold agrees with her, but he always comes back to the idea the girls owe Larry "everything" because he was the one who built the farm and made it so successful. Thinking of what Rose has just told her about the incest, Ginny coldly tells Harold Rose doesn't owe Larry anything. "Maybe you'd better shut up," she says, shocking him. Ginny gets so angry she wants to throw hot coffee on him. Harold replies by telling her to show up with the entire family at church Sunday to work things out with Larry. She gives in and says yes.

Analysis

In a shocking one-two punch, the titanic fight with Larry on the night of the storm is followed just a chapter later with Rose's revelation her father had sex both with her and Ginny when they were teenagers. Now all those hints and portents the author has deftly planted throughout the book make sense. Neighbor Mary Livingstone's unsettling remarks back in Chapter 13 about how Ginny's mother had asked Mary to protect her daughters takes on new significance. Readers understand Rose isn't being hostile or paranoid when she prevents her daughters from being alone with their grandfather; she is shielding them from his sexual advances. Rose's ever-simmering anger with her father makes sense now too, especially her defiant retort in Chapter 23 to Larry's claim she owed him because he gave her everything. "We didn't ask for what you gave us," Rose snapped. Now we know what that really means.

Ginny, however, claims not to remember anything happening with her father. This isn't conscious, willful denial of something painful she'd rather not think about. She is claiming she actually has no conscious memory of what occurred. This is an alleged phenomenon called "repressed memory" that is said to occur as a response to trauma, especially sexual abuse in children. Whether or not this actually occurs in abuse victims remains highly controversial, with experts in the fields of psychology and psychiatry sharply disagreeing with each other on the topic. In the novel, however, this controversy is not addressed. Smiley wants readers to accept Ginny's reaction. When Rose tells her about the incest, Ginny truly seems not to remember it. Yes, her conscious disbelief is accompanied by a vague sense of fear, and that may be a clue there is something hiding in the shadows of Ginny's mind. One part of her may know something her everyday mind does not. For now, however, neither Ginny nor readers know for sure.

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