Thoughts About the Adaptation

I have to say that the movie and the novel are two different genres.  While watching the movie, I felt like the story line was rushed.  There were certain parts that I was hoping would be emphasizes in the movie but they were not.  Examples of this are: Jess’s and Ginny’s relationship, the after math of the storm, and the ending when they lose everything they once had.

The character Ginny in the novel and the Character Ginny in the movie came off as two completely different characters to me.  After reading the novel, I had a deep hatred towards Ginny.  I thought that she deserved everything she had been given.  Her narration was not consistent and I did not want to believe a word she would say.  After the movie, I actually felt sympathetic towards Ginny.  Because she did not narrate as much in the movie, I felt she was not as selfish as she was in the novel.  Ginny did not come off as passive in the movie because we were not given all of her after thoughts.  With those thoughts in the novel, Ginny came off to me as a person who did not want to stand up for herself.

To me, I believe that Larry Cook’s role in the novel and film was crucial.  Without him there would not have been any conflicts.  The story is based on a decision that he decided to make.  In the novel, it is said that Larry passed away of a hear attack.  In the movie it is just brushed over.  Because he was so important to the plot, I think that he should have been given credit for his own death.  The movie skipped over Larry like he did not even exist after he lost the battle for his land, compared to the novel.

Here is a link that I found interesting as it talks about the Smiley’s writing and outlook while writing the novel. It talks about her adaptation of King Lear and what she thought about it.  This also talks about the different lessons that Smiley incorporated into the novel while keeping it an adaptation.

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Oh, the Differences Between Books and Their Movie Adaptations…

Obviously, as we have talked about before from both the King Lear movie adaptation and the Stardust movie adaptation, the movies do not live up to the books… ever.

I was actually really excited to see the A Thousand Acres movie adaptation. I was happy that we were going to be seeing a somewhat normal movie about a somewhat normal situation, but I was very disappointed in the end. I don’t know about anyone else, but I hated this adaptation. First off, the movie left out so many important details that were crucial to the storyline, such as Ginny’s miscarriages, Ginny’s relationship to the girls, her any Ty’s change in relationship, and Harold’s incident, among many other events. Also, the movie really sucked at showing Ginny’s struggle with herself about wanting to say what was on her mind instead of being the perfect child seeing the good in everything and everyone. I was SO disappointed in not being able to see her struggle and her moment building up causing what happened in the end. The movie left out so many important details that I couldn’t help but wonder just how confusing the movie would be if I hadn’t read the book first. Therefore, I had my boyfriend, Russell, watch with me. Needless to say, he was COMPLETELY lost; he couldn’t figure out who was related to who, who the husbands were, what people’s motives were for doing such drastic things to others and saying such dramatic things to one another, or what, exactly, caused or led up to certain events happening. I had to explain so much from the book to him because things would happen out of nowhere, and he’d be completely thrown off. This is what he had to say about the movie:

“I was so lost I was getting frustrated for not knowing what was going on! I liked how it was set in Iowa, and they hit the realistic aspects of farming and pig-raising spot on, but that didn’t make up for my confusion…”

Secondly, I did not like that they left a lot of Jess out in the movie. I felt that Jess was such an important part of the book, as he really started Ginny’s struggle with her own thoughts (Plus I love Collin Firth). The movie also never really showed much of Rose’s not-so-nice side, which changed the motives of Ginny in her life. (I was super disappointed that Ginny didn’t try to kill Rose.)

One thing I did like about the movie was that it left out a lot of that useless rambling that Smiley worked into her book, which we talked about a little in class. It helped me focus a little, and it kept the boringness out of the movie and kept time moving along smothely.

Overall, I really felt the movie was super choppy, as it kept leaving important details out of the story, so things kind of happened out of nowhere. Also, I Kind of lost the feeling of this being an interpretation of King Lear (Harold’s eye incident not happening). Lastly, the ways of shortening the story to fit a movie timeframe were helpful and detrimental at the same time. They were helpful in a sense that all of the useless rambling fillers from the book were left out, clearing the way for the more important events, and they were detrimental in a sense that SO much was left out that the story and the themes actually suffered in the process.

Apparently, not a lot of others liked the movie, either… Here are the reviews from Rotten Tomatoes: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/thousand_acres/.

I hope you all liked the movie adaptation more than I did!

Another Rendition of the “Love Test”: Hopefully Our Last Encounter

“I don’t know. I want to think about it.” -Caroline in A Thousand Acres the film.

In all, I think the movie did away with proper character building and left only an awkward hodgepodge of character relations and a poor narrative. Many things were different: the male characters seemed only an after thought, the scrutiny of the neighbors was forgotten and the history (loans and taxes!) of the farm was rarely mentioned. Though all of these things made this movie fall flat, my main focus was on the “love test.”

I chose to compare the pivotal scene, the “love test,” in King Lear and A Thousand Acres the novel to the scene in A Thousand Acres the movie, because, for some reason, it really struck a sour chord with me while watching the film. In King Lear, Regen and Goneril give lengthy address to their love of their father, and their appreciation of him and what he has. Cordelia is firm in her own belief and exudes confidence. In the novel it was boiled down to the basics- though Caroline still holds her own.  For a refresher this is the passage in the novel:

Larry: “You girls and Ty and Pete, are going to run the show. You’ll each have a third. What do you think?

Ginny: […] “It’s a good idea.”

Rose said, “It’s a great idea.”

Caroline said, “I don’t know.”

In the film, the exchange is nearly the same:

Larry: “We’re going to form a corporation, and you girls are all going to have shares. You girls and Ty and Pete, are going to run the show. You’ll each have a third. Well, what do you say?”

Ginny: “It’s a good idea daddy.”

Rose: “It’s a great idea!”

Caroline: “I don’t know. I want to think about it.”

Larry: “You don’t want it, my girl, you’re out. Simple as that.”

Though the film is a different median, I feel like the transfer of the most important scene of both books, that the film is an adaptation of, has been done away with. Caroline’s answer “I don’t know. I want to think about it” is timid. She is shy and not entirely sure of her position. The character of Smiley’s Caroline and Shakespeare’s Cordelia were both confident in their answers, this gave them authority. Even if Caroline had said only “I don’t know” in Smiley’s adaptation, she was sure of it and there was no further hesitation. I don’t know why the screenwriter kept so many lines from Smiley’s novel and then, here, decided to change the narrative. Even if it was slight, it detracted from the tone of the scene and from the character of Caroline.

I’m leaving my favorite review of this film from Rotten Tomatoes just for kicks: “In many ways, it has less in common with Shakespeare’s tragedy than with Stephen King’s Iowa-set horror story, Children of the Corn.”

Film Adaptation in Zebulon County

Larry Cook: You can’t have children, but you, Rose, your children will laugh when you die.

This week we watched a film adaptation of A Thousand Acres. This movie was a great adaptation; I would like to focus on Larry and compare the book version and movie version. In the book, readers view Larry as a irrational person with an alcoholism issue. Readers feel that his actions are a result of his alcoholism; many people view this sympathetically since his actions most likely a prolonged reaction to losing his wife. The daughters Rose and Ginny were portrayed as evil since they plotted against their father. In the film, however, viewers are unable to sympathize with Larry. The film did not provide enough back story into his life to allow us to feel any way towards him. As I watched the film, I actually felt mad at Larry for lashing out at his daughters. His daughters did not show any disdain towards Larry. The daughters were not portrayed as evil thus Larry is the “bad guy” here. This makes the story in the film completely different from the book, and allows us to ponder an alternate reality.

Ginny As A Victim

“In them I see something my sister and I never had, I see hope”-A Thousand Acres (Film)

     Readers love the transformation of a written novel into a digital film. However, this process is quite complex. This is because screenplays are restricted by time and format. As a result, large aspects of the original novel are removed from the film’s plot, which can lead to viewer disappointment. As A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley transformed into a screenplay, the original plot became more simplified. In fact, a major character alternation occurred in the film. Unlike the film, Ginny comes across as a mysterious narrator that leaks information to her readers whenever it is most convenient for her within the novel. For this reason, Ginny is viewed as a participant of the madness that is occurring on her family’s land in Iowa. As a reader, you begin to question the reliability of Ginny. The question that lingers is, “Should Ginny be trusted?” Within the film, scenes that display Ginny’s participation in the drama created by a dispute regarding land ownership are deleted from the plot. These cut scenes include: private conversations with Ty, romantic interactions with Jess Clark, and experiences with Pete at the quarry. Even though the absence of these scenes seems like a simple change, it changes the way that viewers perceive Ginny Cook. Without the evidence that is embedded within these deleted scenes, Ginny cannot be considered a wrongdoer. Instead, Ginny is portrayed as an innocent victim within the film.

     The line that informs viewers that a character alteration occurs within the film is Ginny’s line, “In them I see something my sister and I never had, I see hope.” Even though Ginny may not have received everything she desired in life, it is important to take notice that Ginny is finally content. Ginny is benefiting from the maddening dispute over land ownership coming to a close. At the beginning of the film, Ginny could not see the drama destroying her family ever ending. Now, she is satisfied by what her family’s argument brought her. It allowed Ginny to inherit her ultimate wish, two children. Yes, Ginny was involved in the disagreement that resided within her family but she never took action for her own benefit. As a result, Pammy and Linda are Ginny’s reward.

     As the film version of A Thousand Acres highlights the innocence of Ginny throughout the plot, viewers’ acceptance and trust in Ginny strengthens. As a reader of the novel, suspicion arises when Ginny begins to make selfish actions. For example, the private conversations with Ty highlights Ginny’s mistakes of following Rose’s lead in regards to how to interact with Larry and hiding several miscarriages. Also, Ginny’s near intimate interaction with Pete at the quarry signals to readers that Ginny is not completely innocent. Lastly, Ginny’s attempt to secretly kill Rose with poisoned sausage and sauerkraut makes it clear for readers that Ginny is just as calculating and selfish as every other character in the novel. However, the film fails to incorporate these scenes, which reinforces the idea of Ginny being a victim of her own family. As a victim, Ginny’s world is turned upside down. According to Why the obsession with happy endings?, individuals within society are obsessed with the idea of happy endings due to a fear of conflict. This impacts the creation of the film A Thousand Acres because the development of a beloved protagonist that lives happily ever after had to be established, which is known as happyendingification. Instead of Ginny being portrayed as a calculating character that receives her punishment of inheritance taxes at the end of the novel, she is displayed as a character that stays true to herself and eventually discovers her ultimate destiny. Within the film, that ultimate destiny is to live on a farm and raise children. Discussion Question: Can it be concluded that Ginny is portrayed as a victim of her family’s drama within the film? If so, which version of A Thousand Acres is better?

Hope or Regret?

Paralleling the book version of A Thousand Acres with the film adaptation, we can see a multitude of differences in the overreaching themes, as well as differences in the ending of each version. The book A Thousand Acres seemed to stay true to its original predecessor King Lear, in the sense that many characters were truly devious and out to benefit themselves. Ginny’s internal conflict was the battle in her rising jealousy towards her sister Rose. Though she seems to hide her inner feeling in the beginning of the narrative, she becomes more expressive at the end of the book by actually admitting to plotting the death of her sister. In the book Ginny says “I mean I set out to kill you. I made poisoned sausage for you, and canned it, and waited for you to eat it” (Smiley, 354). This really marked a turning point for me with the depiction of Ginny as a character. She was not the sweet victimized farm wife she has played herself out to be, instead she was a cold, calculating person, who was solely focused on self-benefit. However, there was no mention of her devious plan in the film adaptation. Some jealousy and anger is detected in the movie, but nowhere near the level of morbid hatred depicted in the novel. This not only changed my view of the characters, but really depicted the sisters as a united unite that could never be broken. This unit was only briefly seen in the novel version.

Another thing that really deviated from the book was the ending. The ending of the novel was a very uncomfortable, uncompleted experience. It leaves us with the sad reality that Ginny will never amount to more in life. She doesn’t die, but seems to suffer a symbolic death being a ghost floating through her daily routine; never connecting with people. She is always haunted by memories of a life she cannot escape from. One of her last ending lines in the novel is “ I pay two hundred dollars a mount, every month, and I think of it as my “regret money”, and though what I am regretful for mutates and evolves, I am glad to pay it, the only mortgage I will ever be given” (smiley,368). The ending theme in the book is regret, while quite the opposite is seen in the movie. Instead of this “regret money”, Ginny talks about Pammy and Linda as her inheritance. She describes this as she watches them grow throughout the years. The last ending line in the movie is “In them I see something my sister and I never had, I see hope” (A Thousand Acres Film). The ending of the movie leaves viewers with a sense of accomplishment, and with the comfort knowing the characters have grown and will live happily ever after.

To examine this phenomenon further, I read an article by Finlo Rohrer called “Why the obsession with happy endings?” He describes this phenomenon as something that started in the late 1930’s when audiences craved more upbeat, fun endings. He related these tragic endings that were changed to events in culture, such as the great depression, where audiences needed a boast of encouragement. He also gives a multitude of examples of stories that have been made more socially acceptable when hitting the big screen. I think making the ending of the A Thousand Acres film a happy ending, really changed the overall feel and narrative of the book. When reading this novel I felt a great power in not knowing, and the explication of regret seemed to resonate overreaching themes in the novel. Though I did enjoy the movie, the major differences changed the very fabric of the book and altered my perception of characters.

“Why the obession with Happy Endings”-Finlo Rohrer
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/7976192.stm

Trust no one!

Intitial Thoughts:Secrets secrets secrets!! These people are ruthless! I don’t think there is a single person in this book that is trustworthy! Caroline is teaming up with her dad to sue Ginny, Ty, Rose, and Pete. Pete attempted to kill Daddy by emptying the water out of the fertilizer tank(although, not a surprise). Ty going behind Ginny’s back talking to caroline. Rose telling Ty about Ginny’s miscarriage. Jess is two timing the sisters (gross). And I only imagine it getting worse.. But, if i were to sympathize for anyone, it would be Ginny. She is literally getting Sh*t on by everyone.

Surprises: I was not expecting Pete to committ suicide or his reaction to Rose having an affair was to go kill Daddy. I knew there would be an upcoming death, but I thought he would be the first one to kill someome because of his violent past. I guess he tried, but failed.

Speculations:I think ginny is going to leave the farm! I think she has had enough and wants to start over. Especially, since she said she didn’t know if she wanted to be part of the farm anymore when she was in the law office. Also, i feel like she will definately want to escape because she found out that Rose had been sleeping with Jess too and her and Ty’s relationship is very poor. Mending the relationship with Ty does not seem important to her anymore after this reading There is nothing holding her to the farm anymore. Also, I think there are more deaths to come.Who is going to die next? Will it follow in alignment with King Lear? Will Caroline die?

Moving on to Rose, Can we just say that Rose is the perfect name for her?! Pretty on the outside, yet a prickly bi*tch. (Petals and thorns). She is portrayed as pretty, yet she is so selfish. She does not take responsibility for her actions or justifies all of her actions.”It’s because of daddy or it’s because Pete did this to me” (Not justifying either of the men’s actions by any means or saying that you wouldn’t be emotionally damaged from what she had been through, but that is her excuse for everything) Also, she shows NO remorse for anything. She was ready to get it on with Jess right after Pete committed suicide! “Jess loves me and wants to be with meTalk about heartless! However, this wasn’t brought to my attention until I read some reviews of this book on goodreads. A woman thought it was interesting that her name is Rose and I completely agree with her. It is a more in depth observation. Her review can be read through the link below.

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41193.A_Thousand_Acres

Exaggerating Iowan Stereotypes in A Thousand Acres

Throughout a Thousand Acres, I feel that Jane Smiley exaggerates Iowan stereotypes to the extreme. In her novel, the reserved and polite personalities of the people, the small town culture, the vast expanses of farmland, and the modest dreams of people, are amplified to a point that becomes non-realistic.

For example, when Ginny describes Zebulon county, she explains how “A mile to the east, you could see three silos that marked the northeastern corner, and if you raked your gaze from the silos to the house and barn, then back again, you would take in the immensity of the piece of land my father owned, six hundred forty acres, a whole section, paid for, no encumbrances, as flat and fertile, black, friable, and exposed as any piece of land on the face of the earth.

Smiley, Jane (2011-01-05). A Thousand Acres: A Novel (pp. 3-4). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

In reality, as an Iowan (born and raised here), Iowa is a pretty hilly state. Ginny being able to see six hundred forty acres of her father’s land is probably an un-realistic description. Jane Smiley describes Iowa as a board flat state when in reality it is quite the contrary. In fact, Iowa doesn’t even rank in the top 10 flattest states in the United States! Click here to see this ranking of the top 10 flattest states by The Atlantic.

Ginny’s, exaggerations of Iowa make her a questionable character and marks her as an unreliable narrator. At first I was confused if Jane Smiley was intentionally having Ginny exaggerating Iowan stereotypes, but as the stereotypes persisted throughout the whole novel, I was getting the impression that Smiley was an unreliable narrator herself. My un-surety of Smiley, led me to research more about her background.

According to the Writing University (click here for the link) Jane Smiley was born in Los Angeles, California, moving to the suburbs of St. Louis, Missouri, where she attended high school. She later earned her Masters and PhD in Iowa City and taught for a few years in Iowa City. According to the website, she was pulled to Iowa City by her husband who got a job there. She seemed thankful for her time spent in Iowa City saying “ I do not in fact know what I would have done, or who I would have been as an adult if I hadn’t lived in and around Iowa City for nine years”. But is nine years enough time to truly get a well-rounded feel of what Iowa really is like as a state? In my opinion I don’t think so.

Taking into account Jane Smiley’s background is important to understand the perspective of Ginny. Perhaps Smiley’s judgments of Iowa, during her short time living in the state, seeped into Ginny’s views and perspective as a character. Do you think Smiley is over-exaggerating Iowa stereotypes, and do you think her experiences in Iowa molded the trajectory of a thousands acres as a novel?

Memory Repression

” ‘I promise you I don’t know.’ and I didn’t. But I was afraid anyway. I was a captive of her stare, staring back. ” (pg. 189)

I looked up the wikipedia definition/ explanation of repressed memories and found a conglomeration of theories and interpretations, all presented as merely hypothesis. In One Thousand Acres, we are (seemingly) dealing with dissociative amnesia, or psychogenic amnesia. This is defined as, “a dissociative disorder ‘characterized by retrospectively reported memory gaps. These gaps involve an inability to recall personal information, usually of a traumatic or stressful nature.’ ” On the surface, we see this with Ginny, as she lies in her bed, her memories flood back to her, “lying here, I knew that he had been in there to me, that my father had dain with me on that bed[…]” (pg. 228)

However, memory repression is not accepted by mainstream psychology. And many scientists in the field feel that no credible research exists on the topic. In fact many believe that “memories” that have been “recovered” in certain situations are a product of the process of the recovery. That is to say, memories can be tainted or changed by suggestion when in the process of “recovering memories.” The American Psychological Association makes 5 conclusions on the investigation of memories in child abuse:

1) Controversies regarding adult recollections should not be allowed to obscure the fact that child sexual abuse is a complex and pervasive problem in America that has historically gone unacknowledged;

2) Most people who were sexually abused as children remember all or part of what happened to them;

3) It is possible for memories of abuse that have been forgotten for a long time to be remembered;

4) It is also possible to construct convincing pseudo-memories for events that never occurred; and

5) There are gaps in our knowledge about the processes that lead to accurate and inaccurate recollections of childhood abuse.

False memory however, is seen as a commonly occurring event. As pointed out by Doctor Elizabeth Loftus of UC Irvine, “[…] research showed that creating false memories of a relatively benign childhood experience, i.e., becoming lost in a shopping mall as a young child was easily induced. In other studies, even much more extreme example of false memories (eg., spilling punch on the bride’s parents at a family wedding or nearly drowning as a child) could be induced in as many as a quarter of the subjects tested. Even in subjects who failed to develop a complete false memory, partial recall could be induced in nearly half of all research subjects.” It happens and has been recorded numerous times. It is even the case as to why witness testimonies have lost ground as evidence in court.

In my opinion, I think that Rose, seeing Ginny in an extremely fragile state, manipulated and fabricated a history that would change Ginny’s opinion of their father to Rose’s advantage. It is not supported by science (in the present day) that someone could forget such reoccurring instances as entirely as Ginny. It could, however, be possible that Ginny, having such overwhelming guilt with her miscarriages and affair with Jess, would apply such feelings of sexual guilt to a single fabricated event in the past.

References: 

Implanting False Memories. How reliable are memories of abuse “recovered” during psychotherapy. Post published by Romeo Vitelli Ph.D. on Nov 04, 2012 https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/media-spotlight/201211/implanting-false-memories

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Repressed_memory#Criticism

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychogenic_amnesia

The Unreliable Narrator

“Lying here, I knew that he had been in there to me, that my father had lain with my on that bed, that I had looked at the top of his head, at his balding post in the brown grizzled hair, while feeling him suck on my breasts” (Smiley 228).

In class, we have talked a lot about how Ginny may not be the most trustworthy narrator because she seems to be withholding information from us. I first questioned Ginny’s narrative when she denied being sexually abused by her father though we knew Larry’s abusive relationship with Rose. I again questioned Ginny when she talked about experiencing amnesia… if she had experienced memory loss, how can we trust her to give us the whole truth or even the correct story for that matter? Now at the beginning of book four, we learned that Ginny was in fact sexually abused by her father like Rose had said. Whether Ginny had withheld that information on purpose or unknowingly, her story is unreliable, and I can no longer trust her as a narrator. I have been comparing this story a lot to King Lear, and have specifically thought a lot of about the similarities and differences between Goneril and Ginny.

From the very beginning of King Lear, I saw Goneril as the evil step-sister who was outspoken with an ulterior motive; I immediately found Goneril to be an untrustworthy character. However, in A Thousand Acres, I did not feel the same way about Ginny right away. Ginny seemed to be a good wife and daughter who did what was expected of her. While Larry seemed crazy from the beginning, and Rose and Caroline were too bias in their opinions, Ginny was the peacemaker who always understood both sides of the story and therefore seemed to be the most stable character. This made me want to believe Ginny and trust her so badly, even after she denied Rose’s claim that she too was sexually assaulted by her father and even after learning about her amnesia, I wanted to believe her!

At first, realizing that Ginny was not reliable almost ruined the story for me. If our narrator was lying to us, who else was lying to us? What parts of the story are true and what parts of the story are lies? I felt like I had studied for a test just to find out that I was studying the wrong information; I was bummed. However I found an article explaining the unreliable narrator, and I realized that if Ginny was not this unreliable narrator the story would be very different. By realizing that Ginny is not the most trusting, it allows the reader to form their own opinions about the story and the motives behind each character. The article says that when an unreliable narrator is done right “the results can be powerful and fascinating” (Hewitt 2014). I am now thankful that Ginny is an unreliable narrator because I have realized that though her narrative may not always deem true, she has forced me to think more critically about the story and it has made the story a great read.

Does anyone else think that Ginny being an unreliable narrator has made the story better? Or worse maybe?