A Thousand Acres | Study Guide

Jane Smiley

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Course Hero. "A Thousand Acres Study Guide." November 15, 2017. Accessed December 12, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Thousand-Acres/.


Course Hero, "A Thousand Acres Study Guide," November 15, 2017, accessed December 12, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Thousand-Acres/.

A Thousand Acres | Epilogue | Summary



The Cook's thousand acres wasn't the only farm to be auctioned off that year in Zebulon County. Ginny finds out afterward their farm was sold to a giant agricultural corporation, and both Larry's house and the one where she and Ty lived were bulldozed. Her only legacy is a $34,000 tax bill she shares with Caroline on the proceeds of the sale. Ginny works extra hours at her restaurant job and has a plan with the IRS to pay off this "regret" in 14 years.

Men ask her out, but she always turns them down. She is raising Rose's daughters, and when she looks at them she realizes although the farm is gone, she has not lost her inheritance. She carries it with her, in the very cells of her body. She imagines particles of soil floating in her blood alongside toxic chemicals and memories both good and bad. Each person she has known has left her something, too, whether that is Ty's belief in the "good little planet," Jess's anger at the pollution that cost Ginny her five children, or Rose's fury.

Ginny misses Rose, but thinking of her inevitably leads to thoughts of their father Larry, who never showed remorse for what he had done. Ginny does not know how to forgive him. All she can do is imagine her way into what drove him to do what he did. That is the only closure she has been able to find.


The epilogue begins by tying off some plot threads and lets readers know what Ginny is doing a few years after the auction of the farm. Although she may have lost that legacy, she has discovered she does have an inheritance nonetheless. Launching from her sardonic quip about her IRS tax payments as a way of paying off her regret, Ginny then moves through an intricately linked chain of associations, all related to the emotions she has inherited: regret, solitude, anger, and remorse.

Notably missing from this list is forgiveness: "Rose left me a riddle I haven't solved, of how we judge those who have hurt us when they have shown no remorse." Ginny cannot forgive her father, and she also cannot forget what he did. In a final paragraph written in some of the most poetic language of the book, Smiley crafts a dark tribute to the double-edged power of memory. Ginny cannot forgive, but she does have the ability of "remembering what you can't imagine," to the point where she can "imagine what he probably chose never to remember." Although her father may have chosen to escape the shame of his actions by deliberately forgetting them, Ginny has freely chosen to remember them. This is the only way she can triumph over him, so she guards her memory—the "gleaming obsidian shard"—despite the pain it may cause.

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