“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?