Literature Study GuidesA Thousand AcresBook 3 Chapters 27 28 Summary

A Thousand Acres | Study Guide

Jane Smiley

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A Thousand Acres | Book 3, Chapters 27–28 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 27

As the days pass, Ginny calms down. She considers finding a psychiatrist for her father, and even calls one, but the office is three hours away in Minnesota and she hangs up before speaking to anyone, realizing how impractical this is. Then she realizes their pastor, Henry Dodge, could help, which would be both close and free. She drives to church and waits for him, but flees without talking to him.

Finally she goes to talk to Rose, saying she wants to talk to their father about what he said to them during the storm. Rose says there is no point. "You're making it too complicated. It's as simple as a child's book. I want, I take, I do," Rose says. But she agrees to try anyway at the church supper.

Chapter 28

All the county farmers are at the annual church potluck the first Sunday after the Fourth of July. Larry looks shrunken, his hair wild and his clothes mussed, and he is muttering to everyone about children who steal their father's farms.

Mary Livingstone says Larry has lost his mind, but she is one of the few present who do. Most seem to share Larry's opinion he has been wronged by his daughters and sons-in-law. Rose thinks he is just acting crazy to get what he wants and they have to stand up to him. Rose is enraged at what she thinks is a ploy.

Jess thinks his dad is up to something when Harold insists the Clarks and the entire Cook family sit together at one table. Then Harold stands up and makes an impassioned speech about how they threw Larry off his own farm. He even calls Ginny and Rose a pair of bitches, at which the minister stands up and Mary Livingstone tells him to pipe down. But he keeps calling them bitches, and Jess and his father get into a physical altercation. Harold grabs Jess, calling him a coward and a deserter, and Jess punches him in the face. At that moment Larry looks straight at Ginny, "a look of sly righteousness spread over his face."

Ginny and Ty flee along with Rose and her family, going home "as if there were no escape, as if the play we'd begun could not end." Instead, they continue to head straight for a catastrophe that feels like inescapable destiny to Ginny.

Analysis

After the storm, when Larry moved in with Harold, Ginny still had hopes the family could pretend they weren't falling apart. But when Harold publicly shames them at the church supper, that is no longer possible. Although Ginny has never expressed strong religious beliefs, she has described the Lutheran church as one of the central hubs of her family's social life. They attend every week, as do many if not all of their farm neighbors. Weddings, funerals, national holidays, potluck suppers, and even Father's Day are all reasons for gathering at the church. That is why Harold chose it as the place to stage his diatribe against Ginny and Rose. If proximity to a house of worship didn't soften the women and get them to apologize to Larry, then Harold could fall back on Plan B. He would rely on the moral authority of church to lend even more force to his almost Old Testament denunciation of Ginny and Rose as faithless daughters.

Harold's counterpart in Shakespeare's play, the Earl of Gloucester, is devoted to King Lear, just as Harold is to his friend Larry. He is so loyal he seems to have been infected by Larry's volatility. Harold feels no constraint due to the presence of the minister. He calls Ginny and Rose foul names, and then grabs his son Jess and blasts him as a coward. In this chapter Harold seems almost as unhinged as Larry did the night of the storm.

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