The Resilience Of The Main Character In The Glass Castle

April 27, 2022 by Essay Writer

Jeanette Walls’ memoir, The Glass Castle, chronicles Jeanette’s unconventional childhood characterized by persistent poverty and the chaos and confusion of dysfunctional parents and their nomadic lifestyle. What is remarkable about Jeanette’s story is that although Jeanette’s parents were irresponsible, neglectful and careless, they did manage to instill in their children key commendable qualities and raise well-adjusted adults. Jeanette’s parents taught their children to be resilient, independent and to have a love of learning. These are invaluable gifts that last a life time and breed success.

All obstacles, especially those encountered as a child, are opportunities to develop flexibility and resilience. The Walls children learnt from a very young age to depend on each other for their most basic needs because both their parents were self-absorbed and distracted by their own interest. Jeanette’s father, Rex, was a chronic alcoholic and her mother, Rose-Mary, was obstinately over-focused on her own hobbies; painting, reading and writing. Both parent although they severely neglected their children, genuinely loved them, and the children were happy despite their day to day struggles with poverty, neglect and hardships. The Walls’ children adapted to their environment and circumstances of having dysfunctional adults as parents by reversing roles with them. The children joined together to help their parents to function outside the home. This reversal of roles is evident when the children forced their mother to take on a teaching position. When the principal threated to fire her, because she was consistently unreliable, the children took charge of making sure their mother could manage to stay employed. Jeanette reminisced “Miss Beatty threated to fire mom, so Lori, Brian and I, started helping mom with school work. (Walls 74) The children took on the role to wake, feed, clothe and organize a ride to and from school for their mother and also went as far as, cleaning her classroom, marking her assignments and creating lesson plans. Ironically, by being inept, Rose-Mary provided her children with the hands-on experience of what was needed to be an employable adult.

Rex and Rose Mary’s persistent laissez faire attitude towards the children’s basic needs for safety and age appropriate expectations is evident in stories of Jeanette’s early childhood. At age three, Jeanette is severely burnt while cooking hotdogs and when asked by the nurse why she was cooking hotdogs by herself, Jeanette states that “Mom says I’m mature and lets me cook for myself a lot. (Walls 18) Clearly at the young age of three, Jeanette knew she had better be independent and had already learned to look after herself if she wanted to eat. Growing up, the Walls children learned to thrive off of their neglect, and became tough and resilient. While Jeanette was young, Rex taught Jeanette how to swim by literally letting her struggle until she was close to drowning then stated “If you don’t want to sink you better figure out how to swim.” (Walls 66) This quotation further proves that Rex and Rose Mary’s reckless approach to parenting inadvertently taught their children to sustain themselves because they truly had no other choice but to survive.

Lastly, in spite of Rex and Rose’s inability to be reliable enough to hold down a job and apply their own academic knowledge, they did manage to teach their children the importance of education and instill a growth mind-set. The joy of learning is what unified the Walls family and is the source of the children’s most endearing memories .They would read together and bond over learning. Jeanette recounts her happier moments “after dinner, the whole family was stretched out on the benches and the floor of the depot and read with the dictionary in the middle of the room so we could look up words we didn’t know. (Walls 56-57) The Walls not only believed in a growth mindset; sharing knowledge was in fact how Rex and Rose Mary best expressed their genuine love and affection towards their children. Rex when sober taught his children geometry, physics, astronomy and how to convert their math homework into binary numbers. Rose, a teacher herself taught her children to value literature. In third grade, Jeanette and her siblings were recognized for their love of literature and were all placed in a gifted reading class. Rex and Rose Mary loved their children and expressed their love by sharing with them the joy of learning. Because this expression of love was pure, they succeeded, to instill in their children the drive and ambitions to be successful and live accomplished lives.

In conclusion, Jeanette’s parents may have had a ton of flaws and shortcomings, but when it boiled down to how the Wall’s children were brought up, they learned to be tough, resilient, independent and educated. It was their parent’s genuine love combined with absurd neglect, which empowered the Walls children with the tools to overcome the obstacle of their upbringing. It is because they knew they were loved, that the Walls children, together, transformed their stumbling blocks, created by their parent’s dysfunctionality into stepping stones, and allowed the children to strive and succeed.


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