King Lear vs. 1000 Acres

Topics: King Lear, A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley Pages: 4 (1724 words) Published: May 3, 2012
It was once told to me, “A good writer borrows, and a great writer steals.” Where Shakespeare failed to connect with me as a reader, limiting my appreciation for King Lear, Jane Smiley made me a believer with her clear and natural manifestation of Lear, titled A Thousand Acres. In fact, my entire interpretation and view of King Lear changed considerably after watching A Thousand Acres. I read the book many years before reading King Lear, and as a result never linked the two until I watched the movie version for this essay. I found the book was far better than the film, not in the cynical, typical fashion of how a novel is supposed to tell the story better than a film does, but in a truly superb and distinct rite of passage all its own. I believe Jane Smiley captures the tragic essence of Lear in A Thousand Acres, and truly does steal the crown in real Shakespearian fashion. Weaving in the creative trappings of her own imaginative “realm,” Smiley plops the Lear tale into 20th century America with ease, and her characters parallel Lear’s with intention, but she does it with modesty and in good taste. The disconnect I experienced with Lear (perhaps because I didn’t grow up in a time or place of kings, or have the fortune of inheriting a kingdom), above all was because Lear failed to articulate how or why a simple gap in generations might compel one to want to usurp and despise the other. Lear never affirms why the two “bad” daughters Regan and Goneril have such disdain for their father, other than to suggest that there is an inherent evil in children that exposes itself when it comes time to inherit wealth and power. We do not quite know what makes Goneril and Regan tick other than the greed they display in Lear, and somewhat when Goneril speaks of her father playing favorites among the daughters, “The observation we have made of it hath not been little” (Act 1, Scene 1). Smiley however, accomplishes this task with her tale of the Cook family, and...
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