The Glass Castle: Reasons Why Jeannette Walls Wrote the Authobiographical Book
The Glass Castle written by Jeannette Walls is autobiographical account of her unusual and unconventional childhood. The book begins with Walls describing a lunch she had with her mother and describing how ashamed she was of her mother because she was homeless and shameless about it. The first incident that gives insight to the negligence of the Walls parents, was when Jeannette was three years old and cooking hot dogs, when the pot of hot water spilled onto her and her mother got a ride to the hospital and once she was healed enough, Rex Walls did, what later came to be known as the “skedaddle,” which was when either they couldn’t pay a bill or the police caught onto them, they would take one personal belonging and move to another town. This was how the Walls family lived, they were constantly on the move, and when they finally did settle down, the children were mostly left on their own because their father would be either drinking or in a drunken stupor somewhere, and their mother shut out reality and prioritized her painting career.
There are many possible reasons that Jeannette Walls wrote this book, but to me, the main reason that she wrote this book was to show the importance of family, no matter what they do to you. She and her siblings support each other and are there for each other all throughout the book. They all stand up for and protect each other and there are so many examples of that. One example of this is when the kids are with their grandmother, Erma, and Lori and Jeannette catch her molesting Brian and confront her, and it turns into an all-out brawl (pg 146-147). Another example was when the three oldest, Lori, Jeannette and Brian, work to earn money and collect in a piggy bank so they can send Lori to New York (pg 223-224). Even when their father stole their money, they started saving all over again, all of them, pooling their hard-earned money together, so that they could send Lori to New York, and then eventually follow her there. The siblings’ relationship with each other is what kept them going, they always had each other, and they protected each other and helped each other. It was the relationship between siblings that saved the Walls family from collapse.
Even though the Walls parents were horrible people, their children loved them. This is shown repeatedly throughout the book, for example, when the child welfare man came to the Walls house and asked Jeannette were her parents were and if they were neglecting the kids, and Jeannette said no and lied about what her parents did ( pg 193). Even when she had the opportunity to escape her situation, she chose not to because they would split her and her siblings up, and also because she still cared about her parents. Another example was when Rex Walls asks Jeannette for money for beer and cigarettes and even though Jeannette had a budget that she was trying to stick to, she gave him the money anyway because she cared about him (pg 209). Despite the many instances in which Rex Walls failed to protect his children, refused to take responsibility for them and even stole from them, Jeannette still loved him until his dying day for two reasons: one, for his constant ability to make her feel special, and two, because he is a source of inspiration, and in the acknowledgements in the beginning of the book, she pays tribute to her father, thanking him for “dreaming all those big dreams.” Even though Jeannette doesn’t shy away from talking about all the awful things her father did, she still portrays him, despite all those things, as an intelligent and loving father.
I believe the main purpose that Jeannette Walls had when she wrote the book was to show how important family is, and that family should stick together, no matter what. To answer the question of if she effectively achieved that purpose, I’m sure for some people she did, but as for me, she didn’t. Even though she and two of her three siblings became successful and lead full, happy lives in spite of everything that happened to them, I think at a certain point, you can’t and shouldn’t keep protecting your family and taking the blows for them. It seems as if all the atrocious things that the Walls parents inflicted on their children, are made to seem not as bad, or justified because of their childhoods, and that drowns out the actual horrors of what happened to them. For example, Rex Walls’s alcohol addiction which leads him to steal the hard-earned money from his own children, just to satisfy his addiction (pg 228), is justified by his inability to live without an escape in the form of alcohol. Another example is when Jeannette wants to sell her mother’s ring so they can have money to buy food, and her mother refuses because the ring was improving her self-esteem and “At times like these, self-esteem is even more vital than food.”(pg 186). This selfishness on her mother’s part, is watered down by Jeannette saying that her mother really did need self-esteem because she would retreat to her bedroom for days and cry and complain about how she could have been a famous artist.
I believe Jeannette Walls purpose in writing The Glass Castle was to emphasize the importance of family and loyalty to them, no matter what, because they are still family, but to me, that purpose was not effectively achieved because I cannot look past how horrendous Jeannette’s parents were, and how Jeannette justifies their behavior. Rex Walls has big dreams, but he doesn’t have the means to make them a reality and he can’t stand that “failure” so he drinks to escape and not have to think and the more he drinks the more he needs money to supply it, and the poorer his family gets, and that hurts him even more, causing him to drink even more, until he can’t break out of that vicious cycle. Rose Mary Walls lives in a fantasy world that her family is not involved in, and she retreats deeper and deeper into it, until she becomes severely depressed whenever she leaves it and she doesn’t take reality seriously, which allows awful things to happen to her children that they shouldn’t have to go through, such as the multiple incidents of molestation and the many weeks they starve because she eats all the food they have.
Jeannette Walls is an amazing, strong and resilient woman, who, despite her unfair circumstances, prevailed, she made a life for herself and thrived. But as for her purpose of loyalty to family no matter what, that purpose was not achieved with me, simply because I believe, at a certain point, no matter how much you love that person, if they are putting you in danger, physically, mentally or emotionally, you have to cut them off, or at least distance yourself from them, for your own well-being. No matter how much you love them or how much it hurts to distance yourself from them, if your mental, emotional or physical health is being jeopardized, you must break free from them.
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