The Glass Castle Essay

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The Power to Overcome
Sid Udayan
January 10, 2012
ENG4U1
Ms. Skakic

It still holds true that man is most uniquely human when he turns obstacles into opportunities. This is evident in Jeannette Walls’ memoir, The Glass Castle, which reiterates the story of Jeannette who is raised within a family that is both deeply dysfunctional and distinctively vibrant. 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 moulds her into the woman she grows up to be. Throughout her life, Jeannette must cope with the carelessness of her mother, Rose Mary, while also dealing with the destructive nature of her father, Rex. During her childhood, Jeannette and the Walls family constantly move from one place to another, and as such, she does not experience the stability of a home base. This is the case when the family is faced with troubles concerning the law; “One night a policeman tapped on our window and said we had to leave... after he left, Dad called him the goddamn Gestapo and said that people like that got their jollies pushing people like us around. Dad was fed up with civilization. He and Mom decided we should move back to the desert and resume our hunt for gold without our starter money...” (Walls, pg. 34). It is important that Jeannette is continually forced to leave the places where she lives. She is denied stability in her life and only desires it more and more as she grows up. The culmination of this desire results in her decision to move to New York to pursue a career and a new life, away from her impractical and chaotic life with the Walls family. The Walls family travel to many different locations as Rex searches for gold, most of which are isolated and desolate. Safety becomes an issue with the absence of stability and Jeannette experiences this first hand when the family moves to Battle Mountain; “Then I felt a sharp sting on the back of my head as if a little rock had hit me. Billy had thrown the ring at me. I kept walking. ‘Guess what?’ Billy shouted. ‘I raped you!’” (pg. 87). Jeannette is confused when she hears what Billy says. She is sexually assaulted at the age of eight, and it only seems to get worse as she moves from place to place. With each attack resulting due to the continued neglect that Rex and Rose Mary show towards their kids by not providing stability. The neglect that Jeannette experiences, but does not yet understand, eventually results in the involvement of Social Services with the Walls family; “He’d launch an investigation and end up sending me and Brian and Lori and Maureen off to live with different families, even though we all got good grades and knew Morse code. I couldn’t let that happen. No way was I going to lose Brian and Lori and Maureen.” (pg. 194). It is here that Jeannette shows how much she truly cares about her family. The neglect of her parents has required her to become the responsible figure head of the Walls household and she learns to protect and care for her siblings. Jeannette develops the characteristics of a mother figure despite the careless absence of her own mother. Rose Mary Walls is far from being a caring mother or a positive role model to her children. She is unable to provide the basic necessities required for survival and even resorts to stealing what little resources the family has for herself; “I wondered if she had been looking forward to eating the margarine herself. And that made me wonder if she was the one who’d stolen the can of corn the night before, which got me a little mad...” (pg. 69). Jeannette challenges her mother for the first time by breaking one of her unspoken rules, that their lives are a long and incredibly fun adventure. She is finally able to realize that Rose Mary is selfish and puts herself in front of her...
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