King Lear
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When Jane Smiley wrote A Thousand Acres, she consciously made the story parallel to Shakespeares King Lear for several reasons. The novels characters and basic storyline are almost direct parallels to King Lear, but Smileys dissatisfaction with the traditional interpretation of King Lear is showcased in her modern day version (Berne 236).

The story of the Cook family is almost a carbon copy of the saga of Lears family. The ruler, or father, possesses so much power that he is driven to insanity. Both divide up their kingdoms and land, giving the largest portion to the most “loving” daughter: “In spite of that inner clang, I tried to sound agreeable. Its a good idea. Rose said, Its a great idea. Caroline said, I dont know.” (Smiley 19).

In each family, one daughter, the youngest, rebels against her fathers wishes and is not given any land.
Cordelia: Nothing, my lord.
Lear: Nothing?
Cordelia: Nothing.
Lear: Nothing will come of nothing: speak again.
Cordelia: Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave My heart into my mouth. I love your majesty/ According to my bond; nor more nor less. (Shakespeare I. i. 89-94)

Shortly after giving up his power, the father realizes that he is nothing without it and appears to be slowly becoming insane. In both instances, the father, in a crazed moment, wanders off and puts himself in a life-threatening situation. In the end the youngest daughter comes to the fathers rescue.

With so many basic plot similarities, Smiley manages to convey a new take on an old-fashioned story. At the end of King Lear, Lear traditionally is believed to be a changed man. Smiley doesnt buy into this common belief; therefore Larry Cook remains a static character throughout the novel. He never changes his attitude towards his possessions,

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Jane Smiley And Shakespeares King Lear. (April 17, 2021). Retrieved from