Date of Award

Spring 5-4-2018

Document Type

Honors Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


English, Linguistics, and Communication

Department Chair or Program Director

Richards, Gary

First Advisor

Mathur, Maya

Major or Concentration



In William Shakespeare’s great tragedy, King Lear, Lear’s three daughters, Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia, betray their father at different points in the play and die as a result. Jane Smiley reimagines the story of King Lear in her novel, A Thousand Acres, by combining new plot material with material from the original text.

Smiley’s novel is narrated by Larry’s eldest daughter, Ginny, whose voice reorients Shakespeare’s patriarchal narrative and transforms it into a feminist text. Smiley changes the overarching plot to create a more sympathetic link between the daughters and the reader by granting them a level of redemption. Ginny achieves complete independence by leaving her father and the farm behind, creating a self sustaining life in the city for herself. Caroline, the youngest daughter, achieves some independence by cutting geographic bonds with her father and leaving the family farm, yet remains loyal to him during his life and after his death. Rose, the middle child, attempts to free herself by gaining control of the farm from her father, but but is unable to free herself from the shadow of his control and dies bankrupt. By granting the daughters independence from their father, A Thousand Acres reverses the patriarchal narrative of King Lear and transforms it into a feminist one.