A Woman's Role On A Patriarchal Family Farm

1374 words - 5 pages

As the title suggests, I’ve hit a few notable markers in my research. Some of them would definitely be called bumps in the literary road as far as this paper goes, but I feel that a broader view of what I’ve experienced and found has created something original. Let me explain.
I started this idea with a simple goal in mind. I wanted to make A Thousand Acres working class. I simply wanted to show how it was working class, but more importantly why, it fit in that category. What that has evolved into, however, is not so simple. Jane Smiley’s novel encompasses a huge array of ideas and could fit in an absurd number of categories. Drama, tragedy, pastoral, family, business and several other one word titles would just as effectively classify this novel as does working class, so I had to look elsewhere. I had close to a dozen sources from JSTOR to Google Scholar saved on my flash drive, and I read them all. Only in about 2 of them were the terms “working class” even alluded to, and I got a little worried. I had plenty of time to change my topic, but I found a few points of interest. Working class, as it stands in my mind, has the metaphoric likeness of Play-Dough and I would like to be the person to look at A Thousand Acres as the working class text that I believe it is, and mold and form a wholly original idea using feminism, education and prosperity (or the lack thereof) as the backbone.
Conveniently enough, three texts in particular struck me as particularly useful. Each one is very different from the other in its own right, but each text also solidified Jane Smiley’s work as something useful to my project. Just when I thought I’d move on to something easier and over done (like Steinbeck), these articles renewed my interest in what I wanted to do. The articles were Jack Temple Kirby’s Rural Culture in the American Middle West: Jefferson to Jane Smiley, Marina Leslie’s Incest, Incorporation, and King Lear in Jane Smiley’s a Thousand Acres and Kelley J. Hall’s Putting the Pieces Together: Using Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres in Sociology of Families.
Leslie and Hall spend a lot of time focusing on the family and gender aspects of the novel. Hall’s in particular, as can be inferred from the title, focuses on the sociological aspects of family, diversity and differing backgrounds. She says that “the ideology of separate spheres is central to A Thousand Acres in terms of public versus private images of the family, and the gender division of labor within the family”. (371) She goes on later in the same section to describe the “visual” situation of a particularly well-to-do working class family within a well-to-do working class community by saying that “appearance is everything, and maintaining that appearance is crucial to the status of the family in the community”. (371) Leslie’s article makes some of the same conclusions, but through different means. Here we have an author looking at A Thousand Acres in three different, but...

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