The Glass Castle
The Effect of a Parenting Style on the Development of a Child as Illustrated in “The Glass Castle”
Many people have varying opinions on parenting, usually motivated by deeply personal beliefs. These differing outlooks on raising children develops children themselves into different people with very specific values instilled in them by their parents. The impact of childhood on their development is undoubtedly substantial, but its complete effects are rarely understood; studies by Cornell and Louisiana State University established that parenting style can lead children towards certain characteristics and values later on in life (“The Influence of Parenting Styles on Children’s Cognitive Development”). The memoir The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls recounts the story of Walls’s childhood and development under her parents. What makes her childhood unique is her upbringing in a poor family under her unusual parents that necessitated her gaining maturity much earlier than usual children. However, her parents still instilled in her a passion for learning and that combined with her maturity to enable her later success in life as a writer.
The reason that people are who they are is due in large part to the influence of their parents, and the style of their parenting. Jeannette Walls’s parents were extremely lax with their parenting, and she and her siblings were free to do as they wished for much of their childhood. This is first evident as Jeannette makes herself a hotdog, thereby causing herself to catch on fire. This freedom allows Lori, Jeannette, Brian, and Maureen to experience more independence as well as gain more responsibility for their actions. The children’s independence is displayed when Brian gets into a fight in Welch, but does not discuss the matter with his dad since he “didn’t want to sound like a whiner” (Walls, 140) since his parents had left him to be independent. Their father, Rex, once again emphasizes independence as he throws Jeannette into the water so that she knows “if you don’t want to sink you better learn how to swim” (Walls, 66). However, the maturity gained through the children’s freedom allows them to eventually realize the responsibility and childlike behavior of their parents as they begin to resent them and desire to move out.
A large reason for the permissive attitude of the parents was not only their selfish nature, but also the fact that they desired the best for their children. Although they were extremely poor, Walls’s parents always made sure that they had an adequate house to live in; they first lived in the trailer, then in Battle Mountain, the large house in Phoenix, Welsh, and with Rex’s parents in West Virginia. They also ensured that their children always received an education, as learning was of paramount importance to them. Rex’s involvement of the children in the design of his great Glass Castle, as well as how “after dinner the whole family stretched out on the benches and the floor of the depot and read, with the dictionary in the middle of the room so we kids could look up words we didn’t know” (Walls, 56), indicates the importance of knowledge and education to Jeannette’s parents. A parental emphasis on the importance of education allows Jeannette and her siblings to develop into bright, insightful young people who can take advantage of their eventual maturity to become successful individuals later on in life.
Another aspect of the parenting style of Jeannette’s parents was their belief that the way they lived and parented was the correct and proper way to raise a child, and they did not appreciate anyone else interfering in the development of their children. When Jeannette is taken to the hospital for her burns, her mom becomes resentful of the amenities the hospital provides, as well as the nurse giving her daughter gum; she says, “it was a disgusting low-class habit, and the nurse should have consulted her” (Walls, 12), as she is “your mother, and I should have a say in how you’re raised” (Walls, 12). This episode illustrates the Walls parents’ belief that the way they raise their children is faultless. They do not want their children to believe they are being raised in a family that cannot completely provide for them. Although they may have an unconventional parenting style, they are trying their best, and this effort develops Jeannette into a successful woman as she leaves her family for New York City.
The effect of parenting style on Jeannette Walls’s development is thorough, as it instills in her the values of independence and education, along with a maturity that develops her into a successful adult. Her unusual upbringing enabled her to see that she desired more from her life, and she pursued her aspirations to become a famous writer. While The Glass Castle presents one perspective on raising children, there are many other methods that contribute to different results in similarly successful people.
A Prison Made of Glass in “The Glass Castle”
In the memoir The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, a father, Rex Walls, keeps his family from amassing substantial wealth. Rex buys hard drinks whenever the family begins to earn money. When he comes home he unleashes his anger onto his family by destroying the few things the family owns. Yet while sober, he helps his family tremendously and loves them greatly. The good attributes of Rex and his leadership make his place in the family indestructible, but cannot overpower the problems with his personality. The Glass Castle thus depicts an irremovable father who unjustly and imprisons his family through irresponsible drinking.
Rex Walls’s inability to lead his own life and take responsibility causes him to fail at fulfilling the needs of his family. As a poor man, Rex often lacks the financial ability to drink hard alcohol due to his lack of funds. The lack of drunkenness makes Rex accomplish productive tasks which eventually bring him money. In this state of increased wealth, Rex chooses to squander his earnings on alcohol due to a deeper problem in his life. In his youth, Rex’s mother molested him. This trauma scarred his entire life and forces him to try to hide this problem and act like it never happened, rather than face this issue head-on. For this reason, he never completely stops drinking despite many attempts. Due to his choice to not deal with his problems as a youth, Rex lives in a cycle of poverty and wealth synchronized with sobriety and drunkenness. Rex’s drunkenness carries along his family as well, forcing the entire family to become poor again whenever they gain enough money for Rex to go to the bar. Rex fails at fulfilling the role of a father by irresponsibly controlling the family’s wealth and property, thus leading to faulty leadership of the family. Rex’s deep, unsolved problems force Rex into drunkenness and in turn make him unable to fulfill his role as a father.
Due to Rex’s drunkenness, his wife becomes stuck in a circle of depression and ignorant optimism. She sees through Rex’s elaborate stories that justify his use of money to research and build new inventions as simply another way to gain money to drink. She knows of the poverty she lives in, and sometimes works to provide for the family. She detects Rex’s external problem of drinking, and reads books to attempt to help stop this problem. This hopeful attempt to permanently change Rex never succeeds, and after enough trial her hope of change breaks. She sees how there will never be any positive or upward movement, and that she will forever live in horrible conditions for the rest of her life. Thereafter, she spends some mornings in bed instead of teaching at the school, and eventually quits her job to spend her time alone painting while her children scavenge food to survive. To try to solve her issue of depression, Rose Mary (Rex’s wife) adopts a heavily optimistic lifestyle. She attempts to always look on the bright side and forget about her hopelessness rather than deal with it. Rose Mary decides to not acknowledge the horrible house she lives in and instead naively believes that she exists in a wonderful life, not a life of deprivation and abuse. Rex’s addiction to alcohol pushes Rose Mary into hopelessness terrible enough to bring her to find solace in the creation of a false reality in her mind, a way to make things look better than they actually are.
Yet Rex’s authority cannot be removed because his sobriety allows for him to prove himself as a father for brief moments, before he becomes drunk and ruins the hope of his family. While sober, Rex recites scientific facts to his children, gives them a future to look forward to (a glass castle) and generates an income for his family. He effectively leads the family. While this happens part of the time, he also drinks whenever he earns a substantial amount of money from his labor, and the family loses hopes of moving into a more comfortable life. Rose Mary and her children see Rex as a necessary evil in their lives. It would be impossible to live without him, and with him their lives become harsh, violent, and poor. The combination of virtue and vice in Rex makes him a person the family should do without to survive better, but cannot do without, to that Rex’s family stays imprisoned in the cycle of poverty and an abusive father.
Walls’s memoir tells of a father who destroys and provides for his family with the end result being one of poverty and sadness. Rex abuses his family so he can drown out the problems of his youth. His family needs to get rid of him, but cannot because of their need of him. This story warns of the destruction an irresponsible parent can bring on a family; for the sake of their loved ones, people should deal with their problems rather than ignore them. The Glass Castle, ultimately, examines the devastating effects that can be caused by a father with deep personal problems.
The Ideas of Home in “The Glass Castle”, a Memoir by Jeannette Walls
“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” Maya Angelou said that very famous quote about home. She captured the absolute comfort and safety of a home. The pure essence of a home.
A home is usually seen as the house that you live in permanently. However, many homeless people feel that their home is where their loved ones are. Really, home is where you feel most comfortable and safe at. And that is where the saying, “Home is where the heart is,” comes from.
At the time of home being first used, it meant a piece of land or a settlement. It also, sometimes, meant a village. So, in general, it has always meant a place of residence. Now, if you look up “home” in a dictionary, you still get definitions like “a house” or “a physical place of residence.” But there is also another entry for home now. For example, the Free Dictionary lists two more definitions of home, “a. An environment offering security and happiness. b. A valued place regarded as a refuge or place of origin.” As time has developed, “home” has come to mean more to the heart and less to the wallet, even according to the dictionary.
The Glass Castle, a memoir by Jeannette Walls, explores this idea of home being more of a part of the heart. Growing up, Jeanette never really had a real house to live in. Her family was constantly on the run from debt collectors, so they moved from house to house, town to town. The only substantial thing in Jeannette’s life was her family, and to her, her family was her home. And when she grew up, she realized that home is where you feel happy and safe. As Jeannette said about her sister Maureen, “But I also hoped that Maureen had chosen California because she thought that was her true home, the place where she really belonged, where it was always warm and you could dance in the rain, pick grapes right off the vines, and sleep outside at night under the stars.”(Walls 276)
In the book, Jeannette’s and her mom’s views of home are quite different. At the beginning of the story, we see Jeannette trying to comprehend how her mom, Rose Mary, can make a home in being homeless while she lives in a penthouse on Park Avenue. Later, Jeannette says that Battle Mountain was the only place that she really called her home. She loved it there because she was happiest there. On the other hand, Rose Mary calls the house on Little Hobart Street “home sweet home.”(Walls 150) Rose Mary loved this shabby, broken house, whereas Jeannette and the rest of the family were not so fond of it. Rose Mary felt right at home on Little Hobart Street because she felt comfortable in that run-down home, whereas Jeannette did not, so Jeannette did not truly consider it her home. As seen by Rose Mary and Jeannette, “home” is very different to everyone.
Home is not simply the house, apartment, trailer, or a cardboard box a person lives in. A home doesn’t even have to be the place that a person is currently residing with their family. As the saying goes, “Home is where your heart is.” Home is a place where a person feels safe and happy. Home is a place where a person can really be themselves. Homes are different to everyone. A home truly is a piece of one’s heart. Sadly, not everyone has a home, and as Maya Angelou said, “The ache for home lives in all of us.”
A Look at Alcoholism in the Family from “The Glass Castle”
Alcoholism is one of the most commonly seen problems in familial environments. It not only affects the health of the person consuming the alcohol, but also has an impact on the wellbeing of those surrounding him or her. Jeannette Walls’s memoir The Glass Castle demonstrates the toll alcoholism can take on a family. Due to his alcoholism, her father Rex Walls becomes emotionally distant and neglects his children. Furthermore, his alcohol addiction prevents him from being able to keep a job and provide for his family. Rex’s drinking problem also causes him to act irrationally and abusively; this not only hurts the family physically but also traumatizes them. The alcoholism demonstrated by Rex Walls has a major impact on the Walls family emotionally, financially, and psychologically.
When Rex Walls’ begins to drink more excessively, he becomes distant and unreliable to his children. Initially, Jeannette looks up to her father and believes everything he tells her, including his idealistic fantasies about the future. He regales her with visions of striking rich and building a beautiful glass castle for the whole family. However, over time, Jeannette becomes aware of her fathers drinking problem and begins to lose faith in all his claims, saying, “I listened to Dad’s plans and tried to encourage him, hoping that what he was saying was true but also pretty sure it wasn’t”(Walls 171). She loses faith in him to the point where she advises her mother to leave him. Unlike Jeannette, her siblings Lori and Brian are not as close with their father and are quicker to realize his serious flaws. Rex Walls often disappears for days at a time, becoming less involved in his children’s lives. For example, when Jeannette is jumped and beaten by the local bullies she neglects to tell her father of the serious issue, as he is rarely ever sober. Jeannette and her siblings often do not see Rex for long periods of time and perceive him as unreliable and unapproachable. Due to his alcoholism, Rex Walls is unable to be a reliable father to his children. This distance even progresses into the adulthood of Jeannette, Brian, Lori, and Maureen; emotionally they miss an integral role in adolescent development and are not nurtured properly, often experiencing great disappointment at young ages.
In addition to the effects alcoholism has on his family emotionally, Rex Walls’ alcoholism also affects the family financially. When he loses his job as an electrician, he blames the mob claiming that “the best place to gather information was at the bars the mobsters owned” (Walls 112). While he spends his days drinking, the lack of income has an enormous impact on the children’s lives; they often must ration what they eat and even resort to stealing from classmates and searching the garbage. The family is also forced to live in poor conditions. On Little Hobart Street, the Walls’ house is decrepit and does not have basic appliances, including heating. In the winter months, Jeannette and her siblings find coal left over in the streets and burn it to keep warm, but the fire is not sufficient. “This house doesn’t have a lick of insulation,” Brian says, “all the heat’s going right through the roof” (Walls 176). The lack of heat coupled with the inadequate housing results in freezing nights in the Walls household so intense that a pet lizard of Brian’s even freezes to death one night. Rex Walls’ addiction not only prevents him from making money but also causes him to spend it. When Jeannette forms a tight budget to feed the family, Rex takes two days worth of food for beer and cigarettes. His situation forces them to starve and live in harsh conditions, but it also teaches them independence and self-sustainability. Nevertheless, Rex’s alcoholism has an enormous impact on the Walls’ lives that is both harmful and avoidable.
In addition to impacting characters in The Glass Castle, emotionally and financially, Rex Walls’ alcoholism also affects the family psychologically. Under the influence, Rex acts irrationally and is often very violent. For example, on Christmas, the family celebrates by going to church, decorating, and buying gifts for each other. However Rex Walls gets drunk and ruins the experience first by interrupting church with crude comments and then by burning the Christmas tree. Jeannette writes, “when Dad went crazy, we all had our own ways of shutting down and closing off,” (Walls 114). This moment clearly demonstrates how alcoholism can affect a child’s psychological health, as this was a major turning point in which Jeannette loses trust in her father. Another example of when Rex goes “crazy” is when he relapses and fights Jeannette’s mother, even pulling out a knife and throwing furniture and silverware. This moment is extremely frightening, leaving the Jeannette, Brian and Lori scarred. These instants are traumatizing and bring fear and embarrassment to Jeannette and her siblings that will be remembered forever.
In Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle, alcoholism plays a major role in the Walls family and impacts each member greatly, especially Jeannette, Brian, and Lori. Emotionally, his alcoholism prevents him from being present in his children’s lives. Financially, it prevents him from providing for his family, resulting in poverty and starvation. Furthermore, his violent and erratic behavior while intoxicated frightens members of the Walls family and brings embarrassment and trauma to Jeannette and her siblings. Rex Walls’ alcohol addition brings about many issues and has a great impact on the lives of those around him. In addition to eventually being what kills him in the end, Rex’s heavy consumption of alcohol plays a major role in the Walls family and greatly affects them emotionally, financially, and psychologically.
A Theme Of Making Peace With Past In “The Glass Castle” And “Born A Crime”
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, to make peace is to “become resolved or reconciled.” How does one feel when they find acceptance and success in the quest to make peace with a past they can’t abandon? In “The Glass Castle” and “Born A Crime,” Jeanette Walls and Trevor Noah convey different forms of making peace with their past. Jeanette needs her struggles to be heard, and Trevor lets the trauma subside. Though marginalization limits imagination, Trevor and Jeanette overstep their boundaries to exceed their potential. “Learn from your past and be better because of your past, ‘she would say,’ but don’t cry about your past. Life is full of pain. Let the pain sharpen you, but don’t hold on to it. Don’t be bitter.”
“One time I saw a tiny Joshua tree sapling growing not too far from the old tree. I wanted to dig it up and replant it near our house. I told Mom that I would protect it from the wind and water it every day so that it could grow nice and tall and straight. Mom frowned at me ‘You’d be destroying what makes it special’ she said, ‘It’s the Joshua tree’s struggle that gives it its beauty.” Jeanette is learning that struggling helps something grow into something more beautiful. When she moves to New York, Jeanette doesn’t want anyone to know her parents are still homeless. She doesn’t want anyone to know the life she’s lived. Jeanette Walls finally allows herself to grow sideways after trying to force herself to grow up. She has been running, trying to deny and escape her parents’ ways of living. Jeanette is trying to abandon her past. She wanted to feel persistent and aware of the identity she wished to achieve. Once she allowed herself to accept her damaged childhood, she was able to take another step forward in reconciling. “I remember the thing that caused the trauma, but I don’t hold on to the trauma. I never let the memory of something painful prevent me from trying something new.” Trevor feels that holding onto the trauma of an experience will ruin the rest of your days. He knew he needed to let the anguish subside. He is not saying to disregard one’s feelings, but to make an effort to move forward with your life. Don’t stop trying to find a permanent peace consolidation. Some people want their struggles heard, some want to forget, some want to move on, and others make it happen. If you’re not making attempts, you are not moving on. Over time, Jeanette Walls and Trevor Noah realized the grief and trauma were and are never worth longing.
Potential is a word that often exceeds its meaning, defining people by their ethnic, financial, and family background. Trevor Noah wants to exceed his potential, rather than letting the potential define him. He has grown up in the ghetto, but he doesn’t let the ghetto become his identity. “In America the dream is to make it out of the ghetto. In Soweto, because there was no leaving the ghetto, the dream was to transform the ghetto.” The ghetto had a high crime rate, and Trevor knew how easy it was to be accepted into crime. Afterall, crime does not discriminate. Anybody can be satisfied with the “perks” of their scheme, but Trevor felt that that was not the way to live the rest of his life. He had always been an outsider, Apartheid Law made it legal. Apartheid Law used marginalization, limiting the thought of success and imagination. It didn’t only limit adolescent imagination. It affected every race, language, and the ability to process the idea of freedom. Trevor knew there was an outside to Africa and he didn’t want to leave Africa, rather possess a grip on his future. Jeanette Walls’ childhood seemed hopeless. “No one expected you to amount to much,’ she told me”. Lori was the smart one, Maureen the pretty one, and Brian the brave one. You never had much going for you except that you always worked hard.” By the time Jeanette moved to New York, she was seventeen and weary of her parents scrounging to stay alive. She learned to become her own parent when she was thirteen, budgeting and keeping “her kids” fed. Jeanette had made an effort to put forth her writing ability and become the school’s journalist. She wrote and read stories in the newspaper and felt that she could finally piece the puzzle of life together. All her life, Jeanette had been given the information her parents wanted her to know – their opinion. She no longer only knew their opinion, but the whole story. Jeanette perceived this feeling as a sense of content, a reminder that she has more than what she seems to offer.
“You’ll have a few bruises and they’ll remind you of what happened and that’s okay. But after a while the bruises fade, and they fade for a reason — because now it’s time to get up to some shit again.” “Learn from your past and be better because of your past, ‘she would say,’ but don’t cry about your past. Life is full of pain. Let the pain sharpen you, but don’t hold on to it. Don’t be bitter.” Trevor demonstrates that at some point you have to let go of your past because crying does not heal you. Don’t forget your roots, but it’s alright to come back damaged and hurt. Bruises, wounds, scars heal. He feels as though he shouldn’t have to feel bad for himself or continue feeling bad for something that will pass over. Trevor is showing the reader that now that he’s been hurt, he can do it again and avoid the stress. He knows that moving on will bring him better piece of mind. Moving on will help him develop as an individual process his own identity. He feels that if you let your past or environment define you, there would be no originality. Trevor grew up learning that self-pity would only disrupt the feeling of joy. He used the abuse and racism to as a demonstration of proving to himself that he does not need to conform to be successful. He was an outsider, but he is prosperous and thriving knowing that he does not have to worry about the lies he used to tell. Trevor is at peace. “Sometimes you need a little crisis to get your adrenaline flowing and help you realize your potential.” Jeanette has come to an understanding with her mother that she can make something amazing out of nothing. Jeanette feels as though she’d be wasting her time longing on a crisis when she could be doing so much better. She has lost faith in the idea of the glass castle her father promised her, portraying her coming of age. She has developed a tranquil environment on her own. Jeanette has finally reached a genuine period in her life where she is not trying to change her family anymore. She is not trying to change herself, only improve.
Once you’ve made peace with your “challenging” past, it’s become just your past. We do not make peace with our past for others, but to make our future work. Trevor and Jeanette were able to take their tainted past and make it successfully beautiful. They are no longer denying the childhood that seemed unbearable. Jeanette Walls and Trevor Noah learn not to rely on society to succeed, rather rely on their failure and bruises. “I don’t regret anything I’ve ever done in life, any choice that I’ve made. But I’m consumed with regret for the things I didn’t do, the choices I didn’t make, the things I didn’t say. We spend so much time being afraid of failure, afraid of rejection. But regret is the thing we should fear most. Failure is an answer. Rejection is an answer. Regret is an eternal question you will never have the answer to. “What if…” “If only…” “I wonder what would have…” You will never, never know, and it will haunt you for the rest of your days.” Trevor Noah and Jeanette Walls conclude that you haven’t come to the end if it hasn’t worked out yet.
‘Things usually work out in the end.’
‘What if they don’t?’
‘That just means you haven’t come to the end yet.’
A Look at the Relationship Between a Mother and a Son in “The Glass Castle”
The Glass Castle is a memoir written by Jeannette Walls that elaborates her upbringing particularly her experience with her sisters, brother, and parents. In a sincere but loving manner, Walls reveals the irresponsibility and selfishness of her parents which resulted in Walls and her siblings enduring a lot and defying all odds to attain their goals and remain afloat. Many themes are revealed in the memoir, but one primary theme that this analysis will exude relates to that of the relationship between mother and son. Brian is an only son in the family, and thus by examining the relationship he had with his mother through the interactions, conversations and how the mother treated him, the mother-son relationship will be clear. Although in normal circumstances an only son would be given special attention by the mother, Brian’s experience is different, and his mother seemed too occupied with other things to provide Brian with any special attention.
The relationship between Brian and Rosemary is one that is revealed to be characterized by resentment from Brian towards the mother. Such resentment emanated from the way Rosemary would treat Brian in a non-emotional manner. Since Rosemary does not show any compassion and sympathy to her children, it is not surprising that Brian does not care about her feelings and he thinks that she is overdramatic. For example, the mother’s drama is seen, as Walls highlights Brian typically started with an impersonation of mom carrying on and sobbing (pg.207) Brian is categorical about his mother’s disappointment and is honest about the situation when he chooses to distance himself from the relationship with the mother creating a chasm that seems unbridgeable. This worsened situation was a result of the neglect that Brian experienced when he desperately needed his mother’s support in addressing his difficulties. In one instance, Brian is hurt and expected his mother to take him to the hospital. Surprisingly, the mother’s response was far from anything that Brian was expecting. She suggested that she would not take Brian to the hospital given that the logical thing that should happen is ‘one kid at the hospital at a time is enough’ (pg. 13). The thing that followed was Rosemary striving to bandage Brian with a dirty white bandage. Rosemary appears confident as she narrates what happened to Brian. She asserts that Brian fell off the couch and his head split open on the floor but taking him to the hospital was not one of the options (pg13). Rosemary is not moved with the unconditional love and affection of a mother who possibly made Brian wonder what was the importance of having a mother if things were even worse with a mother than they would be if she was not there. It is with this persuasion that Brian even as an adult chose to live his life distanced from the mother.
Where The Glass Castle is concerned, the relationship between a mother and a son is also depicted as one characterized by some love which was buried in selfishness and irresponsibility. For instance, Walls elaborates how the mother toughened up by helping him and the other siblings by showing them Which plants were edible and which ones were toxic, she was able to find water when no one could, and she knew how little of it you really needed. She taught us that you would wash yourself clean with just a cup of water (pg. 21). The fact that Brian would also wash himself clean with just a cup of water prepared him to be a gentleman who would survive under any condition in the face of the earth. That is a mother’s love in its entirety, teaching her children to survive regardless of the prevailing conditions. Those survival tactics were central to Brian’s survival as much as he would not acknowledge it. Furthermore, being able to do so much with so little was an incredible lesson that would extend to all areas of Brian’s life.
Brian’s relationship with Rosemary is seen as a dramatic one given that mama was not predictable on the answers she would give and even her arguments. Although some of her arguments were true and solid, she overstretched their application beyond the context of a family relationship as an escapism route. For instance, Walls notes something unusual about her mother’s claim surrounding cooking and food. She notes, ‘Why to spend the afternoon making a meal that will be gone in an hour,’ she would ask us, ‘when the same amount of time can do a painting that will last forever’ (pg. 56). While it is true that the food Brian and his siblings would take could only last an hour, and that paintings would last a lifetime, food was needed. In fact, she also needed the energy from food to be able to make the art that would last forever. The irony is clear, and irresponsibility is also apparent. Notably, the painting would last longer than food but not forever as Rosemary would purport. Apparently, instead of Rosemary being an icon of total commitment to Brian and sacrifice all that is within her power for her son’s wellbeing, she seems to do the exact opposite. It is revealed in the text that Brian had seizures when he was small which later stopped. However, in that time that Brian required the mother most, she neglected him and let him be, something that most mother would not do. That neglect would cost Brian and make his life one characterized by insurmountable difficulty.
The fact that Rosemary did not attend to Brian stemmed from her persuasion on how parents should treat their children and toughen them up. Walls asserts this belief by stating what her mother’s ideology was Mom always said that people worried too much about their children. ‘Suffering when you are gone is good’ she said. It immunized your body and your soul, and that is why she ignored us as kids when we cried (pg. 28). It is possible that Rosemary would make such statements as words of knowledge and wisdom to her children given that she would not be able to provide them a comfortable life because of her lifestyle. She saw her words as handy in Brian’s survival in the desert. Although Brian was not always persuaded about her mother’s persuasion, he would not object it but silently listened to her mother’s words which do not seem to amount to much. In one such instance of silence, Walls states She told us to forgive her the same way we always forgive dad, for his drinking. None of us said a thing (pg. 174). Brian’s relationship with the mother seems mechanical, one that exists because it must, but lacks the spice and joy of a loving relationship that would read trust, compassion, and love. Silence remains central in this relationship. The mother appears harsh when Brian to talk out his mind. In some instance, she stated ‘You cannot talk to me like that, she said. I am your mother’ (pg.219). Thus, the control and assertion of her authority took center stage in the relationship.
The relationship between Brian and Rosemary is the basis of the mother-son relationship. It appears to be distant, strained and one characterized with resentment. Brian feels unloved given that his mother’s passion and pride in painting superseded her responsibility as a mother. Instead of receiving unconditional love when he was suffering and bleeding, all he got was neglect and poor treatment. In the long run, bridging the chasm in their relationship is challenging, and Brian opts to live his life as distant as he could. Notably, motherly responsibilities are primary to a good relationship between son and mother as The Glass Castle reveals.
My Reflections on The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
The Glass Castle book is a memoir by Jeannette Walls. The book has recounted the irregular, poverty-stricken upbringing Jeannette and her siblings had encounter deeply by their dysfunctional parents. Jeannette is faced with numerous barriers throughout her life. Despite the many obstacles set forth by her parents during her childhood, Jeannette develops into a successful adult later in life. One of these obstacles is the lack of a stable home base molds her into the woman she grows up to be. Jeanette is the daughter of Rex her father who is an alcoholic and manipulates and knows how to use his wife and his children for his own needs and yet never stops loving them and hoping they love him. While Rose Mary Walls is the most selfish mother of the family who has taken her baggage with her and passes it on to her children. In spite that she still loves her family. Jeanette Walls was the second oldest of the four siblings in the walls family. Dissimilar to mom, she enjoys adhering to the rules even though she is always up for an adventure as well. Different from Dad, she has been committed to doing something that will follow throughout. Jeanette Sister Lori Walls is the oldest child of the family but isn’t the one who dominates. She is smart and loving, but without Jeannette, she hasn’t the courage to escape the life she hates. While Maureen Walls is the most fragile of the children and spends all her life looking for someone to take care of her. Her brother Brian Walls is the siblings that learn from very early at a young age to be the protector of his sisters. Jeannette was the one who often takes on the role of parents when they seek to act like children. But for much of the memoir, Jeanette adores and idealizes her father, and struggles to reconcile this idealized image with Dad’s reckless choices and mistakes. This paper will be focusing on Jeanette was three years old the family living in Welch and the boundaries that they have along with each role of the family members.
According to Garfat T (2017), “a system theory can be defined as a complex of elements in mutual interaction. When this definition is applied to families, it allows us to view the family as a unit and thus focus on observing the interaction among family members between the family and the illness or problem rather than studying family members individually”. An illustration of Jeannette family in the system theory depicted when she was three-year-old, Jeannette is the one that often cooked for herself hot dogs on the stove top. One day, while she was cooking the gas flame, catches on her dress. She was terrified, she calls for help and her mom rushes to her and raps her into a blanket, and a neighbor drives them to the hospital. Jeanette has spent several days in the hospital where she experiences having sleeping in a clean bed and receiving three meals a day. When her parents and her siblings, Brian and older sister Lori, come to visit, the family is loud, singing songs, and telling stories. The staffs were so concerned for Jeanette about her living condition at home but she was quite fine with her parent’s laissez-fairee parenting style. During one of the visits, her father was telling her about the story with Lori’s getting stung by a scorpion and how he and Mom took Lori to a Native American healer because Dad does not trust hospitals. He told Jeannette that her Mom should have taken her to the same Doctor instead of having her in the Hospital when Jeannette got burned. This was the system of Jeanette’s family her father does not believed in the Doctor and has a parent he did not have his daughter at heart he is only thinking about himself and she is sick. He believes that he did not need outside help from the Hospital to save his daughter life he rather brings her home instance while the mother agreed with him. Bad Parenting is the act of not showing the responsibilities that should be taken as a mother or father.
In The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls reveals the faults of parenting through the use of symbolism, imagery, and characterization. Rosemary and Rex’s Struggles to show their children (Jeannette, Lori, Brian) the importance of the appearance and guidance of being by their side as a parent. The father would use storytime at night to tells bedtime stories that focus only on him. This symbolizes his need for his children to believe that he is a strong and powerful father.
After Jeanette’s family has been driving for a month they have finally made it in Welch, West Virginia. Welch is known for having a picture of destitution and unemployment, though in earlier days it thrived as a coal mining town. Rex takes his family on a tour of the town and explains that the very first food stamps were handed out in Welch after hard times came to its people. Rose Mary sees the destitution of the town as an opportunity to establish herself as an artist since there would be no competition where she lived. Jeanette’s father has always been telling the story about building his house which he name called the glass castle. Welch was where his reality came into play in settle somewhere for the longest time that they could call home. Jeanette has wanted a house that everyone could see has different but her parents did not careless of her ideas toward fixing and painting the house their response was negative. The can of paint Jeannette used to try to make their house look better freezes and can never be used again. This is a symbol of the futility she faces when she tries to normalize her family. In going out of her way to get a ladder and the family did not help her to paint the house the father was not home most of the time either.
The parents show no interest in the welfare of their children’s living conditions. Jeannette’s mother and father show their faults by destroying everything the children try to accomplish because of their habits. Jeannette had to take on the responsibilities of her parent when they should be the one parenting their children she have to be doing it herself and catering for her other siblings as well. According to the handout given in class on let Mother take care of it as it is related to “Over functioning tends to feel that there is no option but to take on the responsibility and do the work required. He or she thinks the other is incapable of functioning in the area and feels forced to do it” In this case, Jeanette was the over-functioning person within her family all the time in taking on the responsibilities of getting everything done in the home. She was the one who have to get the family running because her parents were irresponsible.
Throughout the Glass Castle, there has been a constant shift in the mobile analogy has the family keep moving from one place to another there was no stability within the family system. An according to Miller. J (powerpoint 2019) the mobile analogy “It is helpful when thinking of a family as a system, to compare it to a mobile”. The father who had an addiction problem a Jeanette was the one who had to be taking on the responsibilities of caring for him and telling him how he should stop drinking. When Dad has lost his job Jeannette was the one who is telling them what they want to get a job and trying to maintain the stability within the family and keeping things under control. It has affected the children so much especially when he was drunk and could bet the mother and throw anything that he came in contact with to hit anyone that was in his way. That was not healthy for the childhood of his children to be explored to that kind of living it has a toll on Jeanette being that she was the oldest child. The mom told her to go and talk to her dad when he was drunk to stop the drinking and has a child that should have not to be her role to be taking on his lock of responsibility.
Jeannette is a hard-working and intelligent child who takes on every responsibility that her parents should be doing. While Jeanette would describe his father to be smelling like cigarettes, whiskey, and hair tonic. He has invented credentials to get jobs, which he never keeps for long. He is a dreamer who always has big plans but never put them into perspective. For instance, when they have to move because of bill collectors, Rex instead tells his children that they are being chased by FBI agents. Rex is plagued by drunkenness and gambling addictions so he keeps moving from one place to the other. The mom rose Mary frequently likes to withdraws her self into her world which sometimes to the point of placing her children in harm. According to Garfat T (2017) “role exists in all families, whether it be traditional roles such as a parent, brother, sister, or less traditional roles such as scapegoat, savior, or switchboard”. In the glass castle, the role changed when Jeanette and Brian have to be taking care of the house when the Dad was away. Both of them were digging a hole for the foundation of the glass castle they work so hard in making the best of it. Therefore the family could not pay for the town’s trash to remove their garbage and it was piling upon them. She has asked her parents what they are going to do he and her brother watched the hole all filled with garbage that they labor so much to dig. The change in roles may maintain the stability in the relationship, but it may also push a family towards a different equilibrium or dysfunction. Whereas the father he should have been the one that makes provision for his children’s health and he did not care less about there a living condition that was concerned to Jeanette. Likewise, Jeanette was the one who had to make her our food when her parents should be the ones to take care of her while she is three years old her role was to provide for her self.
The family was living in a toxic environment that was unhealthy for the children to be in consuming all of the harmful substances. The garbage in the hole beside their house, the rat that lays down in Maureen’s bed, and the frozen paint all represent the realities of Jeannette’s life that she just can’t seem to overcome. The children were the ones who have to be protecting themselves from the rat eating their food while the mom thinks that the rat needs food too to eat. How unhealthy that is for the mother to think that the rat needs food when it is passed on a disease that they can consume from eating the food on the stove. The parents did not improve in changing the living condition so that it could be more conducive for their children to live in they think all about themselves. Families are usually presiding over boundaries that are impermeable or permeable. In the family systems, the boundaries must be both permeable and limiting and if the family boundary is too permeable, the system loses identity and integrity. However, if the boundary is too closed or impermeable, the necessary interaction with the larger world is shut off. According to Garfat T (2017), families need to have boundaries that they can be provided with the need for help which can be associated with permeable meanwhile there must be a standard in keeping the family dignity. In Jeanette family, her parent has set their our boundaries in not want anything from anyone. While they were desperate and in need of help, no one could ever help them because their boundaries of not taking help from anyone have affected the family so much. To the point, Jeanette has gotten some clothing from school and the mom told her to bring them back even though they needed clothing. They were a system in place for them to assess for help and they refuse to do so which could may their life better but instead, they still to their boundaries.
Therefore, within the boundaries of the system, patterns develop as certain family member’s behavior is caused by causes other family member’s behaviors in predictable ways. While maintaining the same patterns of behaviors within a system may lead to balance in the family system, but also dysfunction. Jeanette’s parent was so self-reliance on one’s own decisions, capabilities, and resources. They become different from others that are living around them because of them refuse to accept any help from others to avoid them being a charity case and later on from their kids. They rather are homeless throughout their life as they liked the concept of wildlife and homelessness as an adventure which they pride in living this way. Walls Family System was a group of differentiated solid selves each one exhibiting their own adaptable.
The smallest stable relationship that forms the base of the Walls Family is the relationship between the trio-Rex Walls, Jeannette Walls, and Rose Mary Walls. As the ” triangles in relationships are any three-way relationship. The basic family triangle is father, mother, child. A basic social triangle might be criminal, victim, police. The classic triangle everyone knows of and probably thinks of when they hear the word, is husband, wife, mistress”. Garfat T (2017) As the triangle looks at the stable and unstable side of Jeanette’s family between the father, daughter combine mother, daughter combine apart. The three is the one that serves cornerstone within the family system. In the glass castle book Jeanette would be the one depicting her life has a child with the memories of her father as some of the best moments of her life. Regardless of the instances in which the father has failed to protect his children, refused to take responsibility for them, and even stole from them, Jeannette still loved him even until death for two reasons: one, because he is an ever ending source of inspiration to her, and two for his portray making her feel special. Jeanette’s mother Rose Mary was not an understanding and neither does she able to stand the responsibilities of being a parent to her children as she is expected to be the dominant force in nurturing the family. She would keep her own needs before her children just to please her self and never have time to put them first has a mother; when she finds out that the children would have eaten the margarine in the refrigerator, she says it is because of her children‟s selfishness. Concerning Jeannette, as a mother she was always absent.
In one particular instance, when she told Mary Uncle Stanley touched her inappropriately Mary‟s reaction to this was cold and shocking. “Oh, you‟re probably imagining it,”…..”Mom cocked her head and looked concerned. Poor Stanley he‟s so lonely” (Walls,184) writes the author. Instead of providing her offspring at least the warmth of embrace she sympathized with Stanley and offered Jeannette an idealized advice “she said that sexual assault was a crime of perception if you don‟t think you are hurt you are not.”(Walls,184). The memoir the comfort that the children would have experience with their grandparents was different. Out of the three, Grandma Smith was super special towards the children. Therefore, Grandma Smith represents the longing of Jeanette for responsible figurehead she could look up to and thus, seek refuge beneath. The Grandmother would set rules with punishments and was very punctual even though as a young child she loved her without end more than her daughter. Grandma Smith makes no secret that Jeannette is her favorite grandchild and she loved her grandma for the structure she brought to her. She writes, “But I loved Grandma Smith”… “I even liked all her rules” (Walls, 111). Maureen turned out to be different from other siblings. She was not around, or old enough when the parents had some good in them. In The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls have shown a lot of resilience by the way that she dealt with her family being different from most other families that are living in the neighborhood and how she was able to accept the fact that her family was poor. Jeanette would always try to look on the bright side of the most situation, even though it was not easy. It was quite amazing to seemingly the children stayed loyal to their parents throughout the unimaginable hardships. As Jeanette got older she comes to realized that her family was not like other families, and I think that she has accepted it. I feel that apart of Jeanette becoming resilience was being able to plan and be ready for her in spite of all the challenges she faces in childhood life.
The story from the glass castle depicted a scary and horror experience that Jeanette had throughout her childhood journey. Trying to intervene in the wall family would be difficult because of the closeness that is within the family plus the children kept everything within the circle because they did not want to disappoint their parents. Since they were taught from early that it does not matter what happens they are going to still together as a family which makes it more difficult to get the children to speak about the thing that they do not like. Jeannette and her siblings were the ones who overcame the hardships of poverty, lack of support from their parents to embrace their dreams. While in the real sense, primarily it is the lessons of self-sufficiency and fearlessness taught by their parents that provided them the necessary strength. As a Child and Youth Care Counselor, this book has opened my eyes to be more aware of the types of families that I will be working with and how I can be prepared to work with them. With the knowledge that I have now it makes me more aware if I see a family living in this type of condition, it is not safe according to child and welfare service.
The Glass Castle Review: Taking Your Life in Your Own Hands
In life, we must have the perseverance to do everything in our efforts to succeed even if there are times in which we do fail. The Glass Castle follows the twists and turns, highs and lows, fallouts and reunitings of Jeannette Walls and her dysfunctional but loving family. Jeannette Walls, the narrator, reminisces back on the thrilling adventures, endless memories and the abundant life lessons that intertwined themselves with what her brother, sisters and her, called their hectic lives.
Rex Walls, the dreamer as he was known, was Jeannette’s father and the man she believed in most throughout her life, teaching her through strange situations, essential and memorable lessons to carry. Jeannette’s parents raised their children on the bases of having them be able to face any case without fear, trusting in their ability to handle anything thrown at them. Only our motives determining the notion of sinking to the bottom or swimming on by in life is the lesson that most impacted me. Surviving or failing to at whatever life throws at you is significantly affected by one’s will to either try their hardest and never cower or give in to the very thing that holds you back and never learn. One notable example of this occurs when Jeannette loses faith in her parent’s ability to take care of her or her family, so she takes matters into her own hands stating, “I had been counting on Mom and Dad to get us out, but I knew I had to do it on my own.
It would take saving and planning… It would be the beginning of my escape fund” (221). Jeannette depended on her parents to only want what’s best for her siblings and her, but she quickly realizes that for her to be able to get out of her parents hold and thrive is to do it on her own. Jeannette took matters into her own hands despite the situation at hand and handled it trying to endure on her own. Her motives and ability to try her hardest to help herself and her siblings proved just how hard she would work to survive. Another example that suggests this occurs when Jeannette decides to leave her husband Eric and the life that came with him behind her stating, “A year after dad died, I left Eric. He was a good man but not the right one for me. And Park Avenue was not where I belonged” (280).
This moment symbolizes Jeannette’s sinking period in which she had lost herself to the glitz and glamour and her rediscovery of herself upon leaving that life behind. Surviving was essential to Jeannette never wanting to have to live like her parents but upon looking at who she became and having thought she was surviving she sunk to the bottom losing sight of the person she was and the people who indeed knew her. Jeannette leaving behind her life represents her outbreak from the point in time in which she did cower from the truth of her past life and her ability to now swim back to what is real. Throughout the book, Jeannette believes in her parent’s ability to provide for their family, but as she grows up, she realizes the only way for her to survive is to take matters into her own hands.
The glass castle
Parenting is far more difficult than people make it out to be. According to Carol Gioia, a Senior Community Advisor for Helium Network, “Being a parent is potentially one of the most rewarding life experiences a person can have. It might also be the most difficult, for parenting is a round-the-clock endeavor filled with demands and obligations”. Gioia makes a point that not everyone will live up to be “good parents” because no parent is perfect, but they can be good by enforcing a never-ending supply of unconditional love.
In the article “What Makes a Good Parent” Robert Epstein provides that some parenting skills have been proven to conduct better out comes in children’s happiness, health, and behavior. In the memoir The Glass Castle, the Walls’ parents are not perfect when it comes to their methods of parenting, but both Rex and Rose Mary do to teach their children valuable life lessons. Even though Rose Mary and Rex Walls’ are seen as unfit parents they both provide evidence of “good parenting” throughout events in the memoir.
They demonstrate what it means to be good parents because of their abilities to provide love and affection, independence, and knowledge. Good parents believe that giving their children lots of love and affection is the best thing for them. Like typical “good parents” today, Rex Walls, in his love, allowed his children to have faith in him by showing them love and affection. Rex Walls often bragged about his past and his future: “When Dad wasn’t telling us about all the amazing things he had already done, he was telling us about the wondrous things he was going to do. Like build the Glass Castle” (Walls 25). In this quote the glass castle is one of Rex Walls’ dreams and was thought of in such great detail that he would carry the blue prints around with him. He showed affection toward his children by enriched their minds with his stories and ideas like the glass castle to keep them optimistic during their family’s difficult times. At one point, Jeannette goes on to describe how other children spend their Christmas talking about how those kids are brainwashed into believing the myths of Santa Clause.
Rex Walls after losing his job responds with “Years from now, when all the junk they got is broken and long forgotten…you’ll still have your stars” (Walls 41). Even though Rex has lost his job and had no money to spend on his children for Christmas he gives them any star that they choose. Although it is not humanly possible for one to claim a star as their own, Rex gives his children a shot at a good Christmas. Showing them love and affection by giving them hope given that they are living a hard life as their parents struggle to earn money. According to Bridget Coila, “Parental affection comes in many forms. Parents can offer plenty of hugs, kisses and cuddles to young children, and babies”. While other parents might offer their love and affection through hugs and kisses; Rex Walls’ shows his affection through family projects and inexpensive gifts. Parents that provide love and affection will not only help nourish a parents’ relationship with their child, but to also achieve happiness in child’s life. Good parents will often allow their children some independence to have those experiences that will help aid them in growing up. In the article “Helicopter Moms vs. Free-Range Kids” Skenazy, a New York columnist, was provoked by criticism for letting her grade-schooler ride the sub-way alone. Skenazy stated in her blog—Free Range Kids—that “modern children need some of the same independence that her generation had. In the good old days nine-year-old baby boomers rode their bikes to school, walked to the store, took buses—and even subways—all by themselves”.
According to the article Skenazy believes that helicopter moms reject the idea of freedom and hover their child’s safety by having a needless overprotective security detail on their child at all times. Rosemary Walls, unlike typical “helicopter parents” today, allows her children to learn from life without parental help. Rosemary Walls felt that “it was good for kids to do what they wanted because they learned a lot from their mistakes” (Walls 59). This showed that Rose Mary did not worry herself about hovering over her children that caused other parents to make every decision for their children. Rose Mary encouraged autonomy and independence above all because throughout The Glass Castle, she never helped her children with anything and told them to do whatever they wanted without rules or guidelines. Rosemary was working on a painting a few days after Jeanette returns from the hospital (from the burns of cooking hotdogs). Jeanette asked her mother if she would cook her a hotdog; Rosemary said no. “‘Good for you,’ Mom said when she saw [Jeanette] cooking. ‘You’ve got to get right back in the saddle. You can’t live in fear of something as basic as fire’” (Walls 15). This is a great case in point that Rose Mary lets her child, Jeanette, at the age of three have the independence to cook for herself.
A parenting technique used to help a child make their own decisions and be more self-sufficient by not burning themselves using fire to boil hot dogs. Children that are allowed more independence and freedom to make mistakes and to better learn important life lessons by making their own decisions. In his article “What Makes a Good Parent” Robert Epstein discusses the Scientific American reports: research revealing ten essential parenting skills that were determined most important to bringing up healthy, happy and successful children. Epstein reveals one of the top ten is Autonomy and independence, “You treat your child with respect and encourage him or her to become self-sufficient and self-reliant” (49). Epstein is expressing the importance of allowing a certain amount of freedom for children to make their own mistakes and decisions in life. Although it might seem like the Walls’ are negligent at times, Rose Mary, allowing her children to go out and make life decisions by learning many life’s lessons to be more self-sufficient in the future. Parents that do not hover over their children about every little thing in a child’s life sets an example of being better parents.
Good parents will promote and help educate their children to gain an educational advancement for a successful life. Unlike typical parents today, both Rex and Rose Mary Walls top parenting priority is to provide an education for their children. At one point, both the Walls parents decided to enroll their children in school at Mary S. Black elementary school. [Rose Mary and Rex] had already taught [Jeanette] nearly everything Miss Page was teaching the class. (Walls 58) This shows that both Rex and Rose Mary main priority was giving their children an enriching intellectual education, even though they were enrolled in school late. Children who are found to be educated by their parents allowed them more a model of learning and to becoming successful in the future. In the article “What Makes a Good Parent” Epstein discusses the importance of parents educating their children. Epstein found, “that parents are far better at educating their children and keeping them safe than they are at managing stress or maintaining a good relationship with other parent…” (49).
Epstein is expressing the importance of parents educating their child can promote learning and provide educational opportunities for the child’s future success. Although Rex and Rose Mary Walls priorities were mixed up their best parenting skill was at educating their children. Parents that educate their child provide a pathway to success because the children pick up on what their parent’s morals and generally repeat when they later have children.
One might object to Rex and Rose Mary Walls’ being represented as “good parents” because they lack common parenting skills such as how they show their love and affection, and how they provide a healthy lifestyle for their children. For Rex Walls’ it was his overuse of alcohol that led him to neglect his children when they were in dire need of tender love and affection instead of a consistent stir-crazy drunk. Rose Mary Walls’ suffered through her depression of not becoming a full time artist, although she still focused more on her art than she did her own children. Rose Mary believes that “fussing over children who cry only encourages them, [she told her children]. That’s positive reinforcement for negative behavior” (Walls 28). Some argue that Rose Mary was introducing her morals of how to raise a child by not coddling them with love or affection. This quote argues what some readers see as neglect by Rose Mary for not caring for her children when they were hurt or in need of a little motherly affection. While Rex Walls’ was the provider of the house Rose Mary was a stay at home mom, a mom that could do the cleaning, the cooking, and the raising of their children.
Although she was hardly ever up to the challenge of feeding her kids, she asks the children “Why spend the afternoon making a meal that will be gone in an hour, [she’d ask the kids], when in the same amount of time, I can do a painting that will last forever” (Walls 56). Rose Mary’s question to the children foreshadows the events in the memoir when she puts her dreams of being a painter ahead of taking better care of her children. As one of Epstein’s ten competencies to predicting good parenting you must “model a healthy lifestyle and good habits, such as regular exercise and proper nutrition, for your child” (49). Epstein makes a valid point that parents should promote healthy life for their child by feeding them and encouraging physical fitness. Parents that do not demonstrate good health or proper love and affection for their child, for example the Walls’, are ranked as unfit parents. Even though the Walls’ demonstrate bad parenting by the misuse of love and affection, and healthy lifestyle they still show some parenting skills that can be recognized as “good parenting”.
Rex and Rose Mary show affection towards their children by creating a relationship of promises and stories of their adventures. They give their children independence and respect to encourage them to be self-sufficient and self-reliant requiring them to grow up sooner than later. The children are also provided an education by their parents, molding them into intelligent individuals at a young age to understand that knowledge is far more important than any parenting skills that predict good outcomes for their child’s life.
Shattered Glass – Analysis of The Glass Castle
As said by Mitch Albom, “All parents damage their children. It cannot be helped. Youth, like pristine glass, absorbs the prints of its handlers. Some parents smudge, others crack, a few shatter childhoods completely into jagged little pieces, beyond repair. ” The tightness of our parents grip upon us kids can reflect the way we function for the rest of our lives. Too tight, and we crave freedom and indulge in rebellion. Too loose, we become lost souls, hopelessly searching for that one constant comfort in a sea of disappointment and solitude.
In the case of Jeanette Walls, her brother, and sisters, their parents grip is unbalanced and sporadic, smashing the innocent glass of their childhood and warping their extreme way of living into a facade of normality. Jeannette Walls, The author of The Glass Castle, wrote this revealing memoir in 2005, and it is her most notable work to date. She previously wrote in a number of newspapers, including New York Magazine, USA Today, and Esquire, where she was a gossip columnist.
The Glass Castle brings the personality of Wall’s father to the forefront. Rex Walls knew how to slither his way around tight situations.
His deceptive charm and charismatic attitude landed him jobs that he could not maintain, and his knack for telling convincing false promises left his children clinging to any sort of truth. Because of his skills as an electrician and an engineer, Rex was constantly developing inventive contraptions that he hoped would bring great wealth to his family; thus instilling the illusive dream in his children of one day living in a glass castle – a glorious house made entirely out of glass. The paranoia that engulfed the Walls family stemmed from his total disbelief in the U. S.
government, providing the excuse that their nomadic lifestyle was because “conspiratorial FBI agents” were after them, when in fact, they were running from demanding bill collectors. Despite his brilliant mind, Rex suffered from severe alcoholism. Because he continually fell short of the expectations of fatherhood, he was overwhelmed with depression and sought drinking as a way to disconnect himself from his parental issues. Rose Mary Walls, a free-spirited painter and writer, heavily promoted self-sufficiency, and therefore led to her light parental control and lack of provisional care.
She taught her kids the power of resilience and gave them an appreciation of nature, literature, and art. However, her inability to hold down a job for extended periods of time evoked resentment in her children and caused their food supply to be as irregular as a place they could call home. Most mornings the kids would attempt to awake their mother and force her to attend her teaching job in vain, while at school they were bullied for their oddness, and would dig through the garbage after lunch, looking for scraps.
The combination of these two dynamic personalities caused their children: Lori, Maureen, Jeanette, and Brian, to suffer an unimaginably rough childhood, though their innocence hindered them from seeing it as so. At only the age of 3, Jeanette was trying to display her independence through cooking hotdogs without guidance, when her dainty pink dress caught aflame, insinuating harsh burns all over her body. After spending six weeks in the hospital and requiring skin grafts, her father “rescued” her by running out of the building before doctors could stop him.
This left Jeanette with troublesome scars and a case of pediatric pyromania, a disorder in which an individual purposely sets fires to relive stress or tension. Additional appalling events for a child ensued, forcing Jeanette to turn these situations into comedic incidents to cope with them. In one of their many hasty getaways from the “FBI agents,” Dad decided to throw Jeanette’s cat out of the car window, for according to him, “anyone who didn’t like to travel weren’t invited on our adventure.
” Lori was then bitten by a scorpion and writhed through terrible convulsions while Jeannette was accidentally thrown from the family station wagon and had to wait in the grueling desert heat until her family realized she was missing; later rubbing off dried blood as her dad plucked pebbles from her face with pliers. When Jeanette was a teenager, a neighborhood pervert molested her. Later, her parents decided to move from the Southwest area where their children had grown up to West Virginia, home to Rex’s family.
Near their impoverished household lay a river that supposedly had “”the highest level of fecal bacteria of any river in North America”, an obvious hazard for children. Hinting that Rex’s mother had done the same to Rex when he was younger, she sexually abuses Brian while an uncle of Jeanette’s molests her. These unnerving occurrences forces each of the Walls children to eventually escape from their deprived childhood and find refuge in different places, especially the vast city of New York. The appealing and creative style of Jeanette Walls offers an
entertaining story with an extremely heavy undertone. Her writing clearly shows how she and her siblings were thoroughly convinced that their unsettled, destitute childhood was an adventurous rollercoaster, full of excitement at what is around the bend, and never questioning what had previously transpired. In one symbolic scene, Jeanette tells her mom that she would water and protect the ancient Joshua tree they spotted in the desert from the wind so that it would grow from its gnarled, bent self into a tall, straight tree.
However, her mother replies, “‘You’d be destroying what makes it special. ’ She said. ‘It’s the Joshua tree’s struggle that gives it it’s beauty. ’” The challenges the Walls children faced in their youth make their ability to lead normal lives in adulthood even more inspiring. By writing with the non-judgmental approach of a child, Jeanette Walls weaves a classic tale of despair with the beneficial lessons she took from her past to evoke sympathy and anger towards Rex and Rose Mary for their parental choices.
Her descriptive vocabulary and complex sentence structure captures the reader’s attention and stimulates his or her imagination. Overall, readers will marvel at the strength and perseverance of the Walls children. The story is largely captivating, though dry at points and similar to plotlines of other books full of childhood despair. This memoir is not only a good read, but also an important lesson for all parents: be aware of the grip you have on your children. The amount of influence you have on your kids is similar to Goldilocks: it has to be just right.