Comparing Jane Smiley's A Thousand Acres and William Shakespeare's King Lear

analytical Essay
2149 words
2149 words

Comparing Jane Smiley's A Thousand Acres and William Shakespeare's King Lear

Jane Smiley's novel A Thousand Acres is a modern version of William Shakespeare's King Lear. The tragic ideas brought out by King Lear are revisited in A Thousand Acres both containing universal themes in which societies from past to present can identify with. Tragedy is a form of drama that depicts the suffering of a heroic individual who is often overcome by the very obstacles he is struggling to remove. The novel and play each contain distinct tragic elements that lead to the development of similar characters, plot, and images but both have distinct themes. A Thousand Acres provides a new interpretation of Shakespeare's classic tragedy allowing the reader to create a unique twist to their opinions of the Lear family.

William Shakespeare's tragedy of King Lear begins with the King's decision to divide his kingdom between his three daughters. He gathers them all together, and tells them he will divide up the kingdom according to whoever has the most love for him. Goneril and Reagan, the two older daughters, make big declarations of love in order to get the shares they want of the kingdom. The youngest daughter, Cordelia, tells Lear that she loves him, as a daughter should love a father. Lear becomes angry and disappointed with Cordelia's response feeling she has shown a lack of devotion so he takes action and banishes her. When Kent, a close friend of Lear, attempts to defend Cordelia, but as well he is banished by Lear. Cordelia marries the King of France and goes to live there. The kingdom is equally divided between Goneril and Regan. These two daughters are evil and decide if Lear becomes too much of a problem then they will take d...

... middle of paper ...

... which would have prevented this tragedy. The blinding Gloucester becomes ironic because when he is blinded he is able to see that he has judged his son Edgar wrongly and it is Edmund who is evil. Similarly, in A Thousand Acres Loren the loyal son is the cause of his tragedy. Both Lear and Larry become mad after giving up their power too early. When Lear turns his kingdom over to his daughters he looses respect and power which cause him to go mad. When Larry signs his farm over to his daughters he looses control of the land and goes mad.

Works Cited and Consulted

Bradley, A.C. "King Lear." 20Lh Century Interpretations of King Lear. Ed. Jane Adelman. New Jersev; Prentice-Hall, 1978.

Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of King Lear. Ed. Russell Fraser. New York: Penguin, 1998.

Smiley, Jane. A Thousand Acres. New York: Fawcett Columbine, 1991.

In this essay, the author

  • Compares jane smiley's novel a thousand acres and william shakespeare’s king lear. both contain universal themes in which societies can identify with.
  • Analyzes how shakespeare's tragedy of king lear begins with his decision to divide his kingdom between his three daughters. goneril and reagan, the two older daughters, make big declarations of love to get the shares they want of the kingdom.
  • Analyzes how king lear's loyal friend gloucester has an illegitimate son named edmund. he is upset about not having inheritance so comes up with a plan to convince edgar that his father is angry.
  • Analyzes how the subplot develops as edmund hurts himself to make it appear like edgar has attacked him. gloucester becomes fearful for his own safety so he promises to find a way for edmund to become his heir.
  • Narrates how lear calls for his horse and rides into the storm with his fool for protection.
  • Analyzes how gloucester, unaware that edmund is a traitor, betrays his father and wins cornwall's approval by releasing the details of the plan about helping lear.
  • Analyzes how regan, goneril, and cornwall all die. edmund ordered the deaths of cordelia and lear, who was captured by cornwall's army. albany and edgar are the only survivors.
  • Narrates smiley's a thousand acres about larry cook, an old farmer who decides one day to divide his iowa farmland of a thousand acres between his three daughters.
  • Analyzes how ginny, the narrator of the book, is meek and submissive. she and ty have had several miscarriages, rose is a blunt, angry filled woman who has an abusive husband and suffers through breast cancer.
  • Analyzes how ginny and rose have lived on their father's farm since childhood, and now with their husbands. the controlling father becomes resentful and bitter when they begin making plans as they will run the farm.
  • Analyzes how harold is a mean-spirited farmer who likes to get himself involved with the gossip of the cook's family dispute. larry goes mad and tells everyone that the girls took the farm away from him.
  • Narrates how jess clark, the handsome son of harold, has left the farm, but returns in hopes of gaining some inheritance. his brother loren, who helped his father since he was a child, was there one afternoon while harold was spraying the crops with chemicals.
  • Analyzes how ginny and her sister rose have unusual relationships with their husbands. rose recounts her dark childhood memories of sexual abuse from her father.
  • Analyzes how this tragic novel ends with the deaths of pete (killing himself by drunk driving), rose (dying of cancer), and larry (heart attack). ginny finds a voice and leaves the farm only to return after the sickness of her sister.
  • Analyzes how king lear and a thousand acres contain language that echoes each other in character descriptions and plot summaries.
  • Analyzes how the male ruler or father gives up the power they have had all their lives to their daughters in king lear and a thousand acres. the storm outside symbolizes the storm within the kingdom and on the farm
  • Compares king lear, edmund and edgar, and a thousand acres, where the father fights for the inheritance of their father's land.
  • Compares the daughter's descriptions in king lear and a thousand acres. goneril and ginny are submissive, reagan and rose are fiery, and caroline and cordelia are independent.
  • Compares king lear and a thousand acres in plot similarities, but the modern novel conveys a new perspective on the classic story.
  • Analyzes how king lear is told from a strictly male point of view and a thousand acres through the viewpoint of ginny, the parallel to goneril.
  • Analyzes how ginny is influenced by the depiction of women's place in a predominately patriarchal culture. as the novel progresses, she gains self knowledge and manages to act out against this male dominated culture where the values privileged in women include silence and subordination.
  • Analyzes how the images of sight and madness are in king lear and a thousand acres. gloucester is blinded because his son edmund ordered cornwall to gouge out his eyes.
Get Access