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A Thousand Acres

A Thousand Acres
Hardcover first edition cover
Author Jane Smiley
Country United States
Language English
Genre Domestic Realism
Publisher Alfred A. Knopf
Publication date
October 23, 1991
Media type Print (hardback and paperback)
Pages 367
OCLC 23941156
813/.54 20
LC Class PS3569.M39 T47 1991

A Thousand Acres is a 1991 novel by American author Jane Smiley. It won the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction in 1991 and was adapted to a 1997 film of the same name.

The novel is a modernized retelling of Shakespeare's King Lear and is set on a thousand acre (four hundred hectares) farm in Iowa that is owned by a family of a father and his three daughters. It is told through the point of view of the oldest daughter, Ginny.


  • Plot summary 1
  • Similarity to King Lear 2
  • Characters 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Plot summary

Larry Cook is an aging farmer who decides to incorporate his farm, handing complete and joint ownership to his three daughters, Ginny, Rose, and Caroline. When the youngest daughter objects, she is removed from the agreement. This sets off a chain of events that brings dark truths to light and explodes long-suppressed emotions, as the story eventually reveals the long-term sexual abuse of the two eldest daughters that was committed by their father.

The plot also focuses on Ginny's troubled marriage, her difficulties in bearing a child and her relationship with her family.

Similarity to King Lear

There are many similarities between King Lear and A Thousand Acres, including both plot details and character development.[1] For example, some of the names of the main characters in the novel are reminiscent of their Shakespearean counterparts. Larry is Lear, Ginny is Goneril, Rose is Regan, and Caroline is Cordelia. The role of the Cooks' neighbors, Harold Clark and his sons Loren and Jess, also rework the importance of Gloucester, Edgar and Edmund in King Lear.

The novel maintains major themes present in Lear, namely: gender roles, appearances vs. reality, generational conflict, hierarchical structures (the Great chain of being), madness, and the powerful force of nature.[1]


  • Larry Cook (King Lear)
  • Ginny Cook Smith (Goneril)
  • Rose Cook Lewis (Regan)
  • Caroline Cook Rasmussen (Cordelia)
  • Frank Rasmussen (King of France)
  • Ty Smith (Duke of Albany)
  • Pete Lewis (Duke of Cornwall)
  • Pammy and Linda Lewis
  • Jess Clark (Edmund)
  • Harold Clark (Earl of Gloucester)
  • Loren Clark (Edgar)
  • Marv Carson (The Fool)[2]


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ "King Lear in a CornField". 

External links

  • A Thousand AcresJane Smiley discusses on the BBC World Book Club
  • Photos of the first edition of A Thousand Acres

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