Literary Analysis: “The Glass Castle” By Jeannette Walls
There are several different social issues seen in “The Glass Castle” social class, sexual abuse, alcohol abuse, hunger, neglect, and poverty. Based on a true story it shows the real uncensored life of an american family who faces struggles and challenges that decline throughout time. The story starts when Jeannette is thinking she is overdressed in a taxi cab heading to a New York city party when she sees a familiar gestured woman digging through the dumpster. Jeannette, the protagonist who candidly discusses her life, soon feels extreme guilt because of all the possessions she holds and the roof over her head, but she knows her mother cannot be helped.
Walls’ realize this knowledge about her mother’s personality by her rough journeyed childhood. Walls’ realization of her family’s standards starts when she was three years old. While her parents we doing their own task, she was cooking her own hot dogs and caught on fire. Catching herself on fire she has to be rushed to the hospital because of the extremity of the burns. Wall’s was admitted to the hospital for a couple months; she enjoyed these months because of the available necessities compared to the sacred ones at home. The hospital bills her going to be high due to the required skin grafts so her father decided to “skedaddle” to another town in the middle of the night, months later. After being burned Wall’s becomes fascinated with fire and shortly burns her most admired possessions. Months later after being home and recovering from her surgery Rex, her father, comes home ready to do the “skedaddle” again in the middle of the night.
The family grabbed the basic essentials they needed to live and packed them in the “Blue Goose”. On the road, they sleep under the stars in the desert. Rex ignored the fact the kids did not have pillows to lay their heads on and came up with explanations to override the truth, as he did with everything. Over the next few years, the Walls family was doing the “Skedaddle” over the Southwestern United States. The parents tell the three children they are running from the FBI and bill collectors. The truth as to why they move around is simply in the hands of the father and mother, Rex cannot keep a job and Rose cannot face the certainty of her ability to paint. While on their travels there are many encounters and stories to tell. On their way to their next unknown destination, the car door falls open and Jeannette falls out. Rex keeps driving while Jeannette is sitting on the side of the road wondering if they will ever come back for her picking pebbles out of her face. Rex eventually returns to Jeannette’s side making a humorous excuse as to why he did not stop when the accident happened.
The family makes it to their destination, Las Vegas, where Rex enjoys gambling at the casinos but gets caught conning. After being caught for conning they move to San Francisco into a “special residents only” where Jeannette’s obsession with fire soon cost them and the other residents to find other places to live. No other place to live the family resorts to living on the beach illegally. Being forced to move off the beach the family, mostly the mother and father, decided to move back to the desert for their hunt for gold. Now living in the desert area in the town of Midland they find a run-down house that is being rented out by the mining company where Rex found a job, he might keep. The houses were so run down the other tenants who were “renting” the houses were not human figures. Rose, the mother, gets pregnant and it is the wrong time for this situation because Rex just lost his job. Rose gives birth to a baby girl they named after their late daughter, Maureen. On yet another journey they move to a new town called, Battle Mountain.
The mother gains a job while the father loses his yet again. After doing the “skedaddle” to 11 different locations the children learn to fend for themselves because of their parents’ actions, mostly Rex’s. Rex continued to drink to try and escape the reality of the death of her daughter and the sexual abuse by his own biological mother. The kids get tired of all the disappointments and save up money little by little and move to New York. After months Rex and Rose make their way to the city where they become homeless; Rex does not live homeless for long due to expiring from a heart attack. One of the most compelling parts of The Glass Castle is the characters. In the glass castle, there are five main characters.
The story is based on the personal life of the protagonist, Jeannette Walls. Jeannette is the daughter of Rex and Rose Wall, along with four siblings. Being the second oldest she holds some authority when her parents are not present. Out of the four siblings, there are more conflicts with Jeannette than any other sibling. Her first childhood memoir was being caught on fire cooking hotdogs at the age of three just because she was left alone to do things all by herself. Her life left her with many scars and not just physical scars. Her upbringing was not the smoothest. From moving to eleven different locations to live one cannot be emotionally stable if always doing the “skedaddle” and never getting to settle anywhere. Jeannette and her siblings were always neglected by her parents but she found a way to love them no matter what to place hours or days before. Unlike her parents, she worked hard to save money for the important essentials and got a job and kept it. After being old enough to make her own decisions she decided to move away from her parents and grow from her scars.
During the troubled times, the main source of trouble was, Rex Walls. He is primarily referred to as dad in The Glass Castle. He struggles with accepting his addiction, alcohol. Rex’s addiction is the main cause of the kids troubled childhood. Rex is very fond of talking about himself more often than others and telling stories. His children look up to him even after all the manipulative times. Rex had a wife named Rose Walls, also known as “Mom” in the narrative. Rex and Rose fight a lot but their relationship is love, hate. Rose is known to be bitter, compassionate, self-centered, and worriless. She takes on a hobby that does not have any source of money attached to itself besides the money wasted.
Often putting her useless hobby in front of her children they are often left with very little to eat. Rose has three other children besides Jeannette, Lori, Brian, Maureen. The three kids have their own struggles through their childhoods and each individual grow from their struggles, some more than others. Many themes are present in the novel that can be seen within the families actions. The family is always traveling and going through dysfunctional times. On their travels, Rose spots a tree in the desert that they call the “Joshua Tree.” “It wasn’t just any tree. It was an ancient Joshua tree.” (Walls 35) The tree had been through a lot as you can picture through the descriptions. “It had been so beaten down by the whipping wind that, rather than trying to grow skyward, it had grown in the direction that the wind pushed it.” (Walls 35) Rose declares over the children’s opinions of the Joshua tree, that the tree is so beautiful because of all the struggles it has faced.
The tree can be related to all the Wall’s children because of the struggles they have all faced and they all grow despite the conditions they have been put through. The title of the book can be seen as a theme itself. The glass castle is a dream of Rex’s and Jeannette which he lays out for him and his kids to look forward to and get their hopes up for the future. Rex tells his children he will financially one day be able to build this glass castle where all the kids would have their own rooms. The kids believe their father will do what he promises until they see the foundation that was dug for the dream house filled with garbage. This event makes the kids realize their father is not a man of his word. The family is the biggest theme present as they always stick together. The family is not one of wealth and riches but of heart and soul. The family sticks together by prioritizing and getting the best out of the smallest quantities. The kids wear hand-me-down clothes, often have little food, and sometimes have to sleep under the stars but they somehow make it through together as a family. The novel is started out by foreshadowing to today’s time and then proceeds to go through the course of Wall’s life.
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