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King Lear & a Thousand Acres

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King Lear & A Thousand Acres:

The Storms That Loom Within Our Lives



World Literature

English 206

May 2, 2004

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Thesis Statement:

The similarities that have been revealed in King Lear and A Thousand Acres are havoc, turmoil and dysfunction that so many families have been plagued with for centuries.

There have been many movies made in the last century that have remarkable similarities to movies and plays made decades ago. This is true with the movie A Thousand Acres. A Thousand Acres is a modern day adaptation of William Shakespeare's play King Lear. Originally, A Thousand Acres was released as a novel written by Jane Smiley; a Pulitzer Prize winning author. Later the novel was written into a movie by Laura Jones. The similarities and differences in both of these works are ironically unique; they both portray the havoc, the turmoil and the dysfunction that so many families have been plagued with for centuries. The perplexity and bewilderment that was revealed in King Lear has also been revived in the Cook family in A Thousand Acres. The tempestuous situation between a parent and a child is different then the turbulent situations between sisters. The turbulence between the immediate family members in both of the works is parallel. For example, the dictionary gives several definitions for a storm. The definitions that apply are, a storm is "(1) any strong disturbance, (2) strong attack, (3) rage, and (4) a rush or attack violently" (Webster's 277). Metaphorically speaking, it is as if there are storms fermenting with the daughters and the fathers of these families. Although, some of the characters in the movie

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are different from the way Shakespeare portrayed his characters in King Lear centuries ago, the reader still receives the same message from the story line.

In comparison to A Thousand Acres, Shakespeare's characters are often noticeably good or evil (Levin). To clarify this point, the King in the play is measured as royalty. The movie portrays the father Larry, admired by many, and the town's people see him as a Saint, also a form of royalty (Smiley). Although the movie depicts a certain good quality in Larry, in relation to his friends, two of his daughters know differently. In the movie A Thousand Acres Larry has three daughters Ginny, Rose and Caroline. The two oldest daughters do not view him the same way his youngest daughter does. It is quite obvious through the writers' point of view that he favors the youngest, Caroline. Larry decides to relinquish his estate to his daughters, only to realize he has made a serious miscalculation in judgment. Caroline showed great uncertainty about accepting Larry's offer; only to be disowned because of her hesitation towards her father's proposal. In the same way, the King in the play also had three daughters, and he favored his youngest daughter, Cordelia. "Lear does not run mad till the third act, yet his behavior towards his beloved Cordelia in the first scene has all the appearance of a judgment totally depraved. What less then phrenzy can inspire a rage so groundless and a conduct so absurd" (Lennox). This was the start of the storm that was to brew between the family members.

In the meantime, Jane Smiley tells the reader that Caroline understood her father unlike her sisters, Ginny and Rose. She felt that dividing the farm was not a good move emotionally because farming was Larry's life and what else would he do with himself (Smiley). She tried relentlessly to convince

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her sisters of his mistake, but to no avail. They had their own agenda. The rage and contempt was beginning to transform between Caroline and her sisters.

Similarly, in Shakespeare's play he writes about the "Fool". Consequently, later in the play we find out through assumption that the "Fool" is Cordelia. She is the only daughter whom has been brutally honest with the King and cares about his interest. Shakespeare writes, " Blow, winds and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!"(ACT III Scene 2). He uses images and descriptions to emphasize the turbulence in the King's life. Later in the play, through other circumstances the King realizes in the midst of his madness, he has made an error in judgment to trust Regan and Goneril, and to disown Cordelia. "Let not women's weapons, water-drops, Stain my man's cheeks! (ACT II Scene 4). In King Lear Shakespeare tells us, the daughters relinquished the King out into a stormy night. The turmoil that Shakespeare writes about becomes apparent through Jane smiley's version on the screen.

However, in the movie A Thousand Acres, Ginny and Rose tried to bring Larry in out of the storm and help him. The imagery that was used to portray the storm scene gives the viewer the sense that the storm was not just literally outside, but also within Larry's mind. He had realized his loss of control that he once held over his daughters and now they had control over him. Unlike the play, the daughters were keeping a deep dark family secret about incest. In short, this was their way of having control over the man that had control over them for so long. A literary scholar stated, "Where Lear alone to suffer from his daughters, the impression would be limited to the powerful compassion felt by us for his private misfortune" (Schlegel, Augustus).The daughters had stripped Larry of his pride and joy, his passion and also, his land.

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For this reason, the rage and contempt that Rose felt for her father was becoming agonizing for her deal with. Rose tells Ginny, "He deserves to burn in hell for



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