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A Thousand Acres Study Guide & Plot Summary

This Study Guide consists of approximately 57 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of A Thousand Acres.
This section contains 385 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
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A Thousand Acres Summary & Study Guide Description

A Thousand Acres Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Related Titles and a Free Quiz on A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley.

Plot Summary

The novel, published in 1991, begins with a pig roast thrown by Harold Clark to honor his returning son Jess. Not to be outdone—and annoyed that he doesn't know whether Harold paid cash for his shiny new red tractor—prosperous Iowa farmer Larry Cook announces his plan to divide his 1000-acres between his daughters at the pig roast. Larry cuts his youngest daughter out of the deal, because she sounds insufficiently enthusiastic. It is not long, however, before he begins behaving erratically—buying furniture, which he leaves outside to be ruined in the rain and, although sustaining only minor injuries, rolling his pickup while intoxicated. He next curses his two older daughters, Ginny and Rose and staggers down the road in the middle of a tornado alert.

Soon after, with the help of the initially excluded daughter Caroline, Harold sues to get the farm back under an "abuse and neglect" clause, which a judge dismisses as frivolous, because the abuse is related to a farm rather than a person. Rose tells her husband Pete she is having an affair with Jess; Pete drowns himself while intoxicated. Rose tells Ginny about her affair; Ginny cans some poisoned sausage and then leaves the farm to work as a waitress in a Perkins Restaurant, not telling anyone her whereabouts. Months later, Larry dies of a heart attack as he pushes a grocery cart down a cereal aisle. Ginny hears of Larry's death in a letter from Rose.

After Larry's death, Rose makes public the knowledge that he had sexually abused both her and Ginny when they were teenagers, after their mother died. Few people believe her. Ginny returns to the farm, as she has learned that Rose is dying from cancer. Rose, not wanting to leave the farm to her daughters, gives it to her sisters, who, after the bank's foreclosure sale, owe the IRS $34,000 (the farm itself is absorbed into a larger corporate hog operation). Ginny retrieves the sausage—which Rose had not touched, eating like a vegetarian when she lived with Jess—from the cellar. Although Caroline paid her part of the debt immediately, Ginny pays $200 per month and thinks that, perhaps in 14 years, the IRS will be satisfied that she has paid enough. The novel concludes with Rose's college-aged daughters living in St. Paul with their Aunt Ginny.

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This section contains 385 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Purchase our A Thousand Acres Study Guide
A Thousand Acres from BookRags and Gale's For Students Series. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.
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