The Hero’s Journey
The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls is a memoir based upon the life of the author herself. She takes us on her journey to her past and provides substantial information as well as detail and imagery to allow us to go on her life’s journey with her. The story is one of pain, heartache, life lessons and more. Jeanette did not have an entirely pleasant childhood, thus teaching her many lessons as she goes through life. The Hero’s Journey is prevalent throughout the book and even in the plotline of the movie, which was released after the book. Jeanette being the Hero, goes through the seven steps of The Hero’s Journey which are Call to Adventure, Supernatural Aid, Threshold, Challenges, Abyss, Transformation, and conclusively, Return. Jeanette does eventually come out extremely successful, this being the final step, return. Call to Adventure. Jeanette Walls comes to terms with her family’s financial situation and decides that she wants, and needs, to do something about it. Throughout the book, the audience gains a sense of how important her siblings are to her, and how much they assist her throughout the entire journey, thus forming her “supernatural” aid. After facing all the heartache and pain in her life, she rises to the top on her return journey and becomes surpassingly successful, a famed writer known for her works, one of them being her memoir, The Glass Castle. Upon reaching the end of the memoir, her life’s story, or journey therefore, comes full-circle and essentially completes itself.
The story begins when Jeanette is only three years old. She is inside one of her countless childhood homes with her mother, Rosemary Walls, who is working on a painting. Her older sister Lori and her younger brother Brian are outside with their father, Rex Walls. Jeanette tells her mother that she is hungry, and rather than doing the conscientious thing as a parent, Rosemary shockingly says “why should I cook a meal that will last an hour when I can do a painting that will last forever? ”. Jeanette then goes on to cook her own meal over a stove, after her mother instructs her to do so. While Jeanette is cooking, her frilly tutu ultimately catches fire, causing the fire to spread all over her miniature body. Jeanette ends out in a hospital, with a body cast, and the following day, her father arrives with the rest of her family, after concocting a master plan to sneak Jeanette out of the hospital without paying the fees. This truly sets the tone for the rest of the memoir, as the irresponsibility of Rex and Rosemary’s actions are not only witnessed in this section of the text, but consistently throughout the text. Their irresponsibility turns into the Call to Adventure, as Jeanette realizes the faults in her parents actions more and more as she gets older and realizes in turn how it is affecting the family as a whole. This motivates her to do something about not only her financial situation, but her educational circumstance as well.
At the start of the text, we are introduced to Jeanette’s siblings, Lori and Brian Walls. As we near the middle of the novel, Rex and Rosemary have another baby, Maureen. Lori, the oldest and wisest of the four children, tends to take on a motherly role in Jeanette’s life, as her mother was not consistently there for them. Her strongest support, Lori was always there to comfort Jeanette whenever the comfort was needed, and because of her, Jeanette was motivated to follow her dreams and turn them into a reality. Brian and Maureen, although the youngest of the four children, became an extreme sense of motivation for Jeanette to change their financial situation and make a living for themselves. They were in a poor financial state and often times, there was an extreme lack of food in the family. Generally, Lori stood up for and was the peacemaker for the children, and this can be seen in various circumstances. For example, on page 146 and 147, it states, “I told Lori that Erma was touching Brian in a way she ought not to be…’I know what I saw’ I said ‘She’s a pervert!’ Erma reached over to slap me, but Lori caught her hand. ‘Let’s all calm down,’ Lori said in the same voice she used when Mom and Dad got carried away, arguing. ‘Everybody. Calm down. ’” This evidence clearly demonstrates Lori’s calm nature, even while protecting her siblings from something that would have made any person extremely angry. This also proves how Lori is a very crucial part of Jeanette’s supernatural aid.
As mentioned previously, Jeanette Walls experienced lots of challenges and temptations throughout her childhood such as, lack of food, an alcoholic father, an unreliable mother, no steady home to count on, and she never really had any positive influence on her besides her siblings and maybe the school environment she was in for a short period of time. Jeanette along with her siblings were getting made fun of in their school, an environment meant to be safe for learning, all because they were too skinny. At one point in the memoir, Brian discovers Rosemary eating a large bar of chocolate during a time when her family had no food. Jeanette gets sexually assaulted by her uncle, and her mother brushes it off as “a crime of perception”. This truly shaped her journey as our hero in this text, because she needed these hardships in life to be able to realize her purpose in life. On pages 68 and 69 the text states, “‘Lori, what are you eating? ’ ‘Margarine,’ she said. I wrinkled my nose. ‘Really? ’ ‘Yeah,’ she said ‘. . . tastes just like frosting’. . . didn’t taste like frosting… But I ate it all anyway. When mom got home that evening…’What happened to the stick of margarine? ’. . . ‘we ate it’ Mom got angry. She was saving it, she said, to butter the bread. We already ate all the bread, I said… It was because of my and Lori’s selfishness, she said, that if we had any bread, we’d have to eat it without butter… got me a little mad. ‘It was the only thing to eat in the whole house,’ I said. Raising my voice, I added, ‘I was hungry’. . . ‘It’s not my fault you’re hungry!’ She shouted” This evidence demonstrates not only the lack of basic necessities in Jeanette’s childhood household, but also her mother’s disgusting reaction to her children’s hunger.
We reach the abyss. This is Jeanette’s lowest point. As mentioned above, Jeanette’s education was not always the best it could have been. She has a strong passion for journalism, likely part of the reason why she became an author. When Jeanette makes the final decision to follow Lori to New York for college to get the best education in Journalism, she begins collecting an abundance of money in a plastic piggy bank which she named ‘Oz’ to pay for a one-way bus ticket to New York City. Jeanette makes the wise decision to not tell her father about her plans. However, Rex finds out during a trip to the bar where Jeanette followed him there to ensure his safety, and before almost getting sexually assaulted for the second time, Jeanette tells a man who she was instructed to distract and talk to, in order to assist her father in winning at pool against him. After she shares her plans with him, The man raises a toast towards “Jeanette’s big move to New York” and ultimately this is how Rex finds out. Needless to say, he becomes extremely unhappy and bitter towards Jeanette. Rex then takes it upon himself to find her money that she had been working hard for, steal it and spend it on the materialistic thing that he seems to love the most, alcohol. Jeanette’s own father stole her literal ticket to education, because of his selfish desire. On page 228, the text states “I began looking through all the junk in the bedroom and finally found Oz on the floor. Someone had slashed him apart with a knife and stolen all the money. I knew it was Dad, but at the same time, I couldn’t believe he’d stoop this low… ‘You ——-!’ Lori shouted. ‘You stole our money!’ ‘What the ——- hell are you talking about? ’ Dad asked ‘And watch your language. ’. . . Lori held up the slashed pig and threw it as hard as she could at Dad…”
The transformation truly begins when Jeanette comes to terms with the fact that if she doesn’t do something about her life now, she never will. Jeanette becomes more strong willed, and brave as well.
Lastly, on the return journey, Jeanette makes it to New York, gets married, and becomes an immensely successful writer and is able to help her family move to New York as well and get them on their feet. This concludes Jeanette Walls’ hero’s journey throughout her life and how she eventually became surpassingly prosperous and fortunate even when no one else thought she could be.
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