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