Literature Study GuidesA Thousand AcresBook 6 Chapters 44 45 Summary

A Thousand Acres | Study Guide

Jane Smiley

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A Thousand Acres | Book 6, Chapters 44–45 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 44

Despite her continuing anger with her sister, when a dying Rose calls from the hospital, Ginny immediately rushes to her side. Rose is unsentimental and matter-of-fact about her impending death. Her sole concern is to give Ginny instructions about how to raise her daughters. Back in Larry's house where Rose and the girls had moved after his death, Ginny cannot bring herself to sleep in her old bed. And it feels like an "impossible defeat" that she so readily gave up her carefully constructed life back in Minnesota to race back home.

In a series of hospital visits, Rose and Ginny talk about everything. Rose is leaving the farm to Caroline and Ginny, not her daughters, because she doesn't want them to inherit this way of life Rose sees as irredeemably tainted in so many ways. For a brief moment Rose breaks down about dying and even Ginny gets teary, but Rose rallies and says, "Don't do that to me. We're not going to be sad. We're going to be angry until we die. It's the only hope."

As for stealing Jess, Rose says Ginny would have fallen out of love with him if she'd spent more time with him. He was obsessive and self-centered, Rose claims. That provokes Ginny into confessing how she tried to kill Rose. Oddly, Rose seems merely intrigued by this revelation, not upset. "Anyway, you didn't have to bother," Rose says. "All that well water we drank did the trick."

But as pragmatic as she is about dealing with the farm and her daughters' legacy, Rose faces her death with a deep sense of failure, especially that she never was able to force their father to acknowledge what he had done to her and Ginny. It infuriates her he died with his reputation intact. Her sole accomplishment, the only thing Rose can point to with pride is this, "That I didn't forgive the unforgivable. Forgiveness is a reflex for when you can't stand what you know."

Chapter 45

After Rose's death the bank forces the sale of the farm to meet its unpaid debts. Ginny runs into her sister Caroline at the house before the auction. Their meeting is fraught with tension. Caroline knows Ginny is nearly exploding to "wreck everything," to divulge some terrible truth that will ruin Caroline's loving memories of her father forever. Caroline thinks Rose and Ginny both look for the bad in any person and are gleeful when they find it, whereas she thinks people are good. She believes her father was trying to make amends to her at the end of his life.

Curious, Ginny asks what wrong Larry had done to Caroline, and shakes her head when her sister's response is solely about being cut out of the farm. Apparently, Larry never molested Caroline sexually. Provoked, Ginny is just about to tell Caroline about the incest—but stops herself. Caroline runs out of the house and drives away and Ginny thinks maybe she should have forced her sister to face the truth. But speaking to the empty room, she says, "Rose, she didn't ask. There are just some things you have to ask for."

Then she goes to Rose's house, finds the poisoned sausage in the basement freezer, and destroys it. A burden lifts off her.

Analysis

In the final two chapters of the novel, Ginny has one last meeting with each of her sisters, the shadow of their father Larry still darkening each relationship. Rose is so consumed with a desire for vengeance against her father she doesn't even care when Ginny confesses she tried to poison her. To Rose nothing else matters but to achieve some kind of justice for what Larry did to them, even if that is just the posthumous destruction of his good name amongst their neighbors in Zebulon County. In this Rose feels she has failed. She is dying, and she never got Larry himself to acknowledge the horrible wrong he had done to her and Ginny. The best she can do is assure her daughters are freed from what Rose sees as the misogynistic tyranny of farm life by leaving the farm to someone else. The sole comfort Rose has is she held onto her righteous anger against her father, never forgiving him.

Caroline, on the other hand, is cocooned in ignorance of what kind of man her father really was. Because the worst thing Larry ever did was disinherit her, Caroline sees her sisters as the villains in everything that happened, not her father. At one point she even uses the word evil to describe Rose and Ginny. But even the injustice of that accusation doesn't turn Ginny against Caroline. First she needs to be absolutely certain Larry never abused Caroline sexually. But once she gets that answer, Ginny is appalled Caroline could be that blind to their father's true crimes. That almost convinces her to demolish her sister's idealized image of him. But at the last moment, Ginny refrains from telling Caroline, who makes it clear she doesn't want to know. As someone who nearly buckled under the weight of the truth, Ginny believes no one should be burdened with terrible knowledge like that unless they invite it.

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