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As said by Mitch Albom, “All parents damage their children. It cannot be helped. Youth, like pristine glass, absorbs the prints of its handlers. Some parents smudge, others crack, a few shatter childhoods completely into jagged little pieces, beyond repair. ” The tightness of our parents grip upon us kids can reflect the way we function for the rest of our lives. Too tight, and we crave freedom and indulge in rebellion. Too loose, we become lost souls, hopelessly searching for that one constant comfort in a sea of disappointment and solitude.
In the case of Jeanette Walls, her brother, and sisters, their parents grip is unbalanced and sporadic, smashing the innocent glass of their childhood and warping their extreme way of living into a facade of normality. Jeannette Walls, The author of The Glass Castle, wrote this revealing memoir in 2005, and it is her most notable work to date. She previously wrote in a number of newspapers, including New York Magazine, USA Today, and Esquire, where she was a gossip columnist.
The Glass Castle brings the personality of Wall’s father to the forefront. Rex Walls knew how to slither his way around tight situations.
His deceptive charm and charismatic attitude landed him jobs that he could not maintain, and his knack for telling convincing false promises left his children clinging to any sort of truth. Because of his skills as an electrician and an engineer, Rex was constantly developing inventive contraptions that he hoped would bring great wealth to his family; thus instilling the illusive dream in his children of one day living in a glass castle – a glorious house made entirely out of glass.
The paranoia that engulfed the Walls family stemmed from his total disbelief in the U. S.
government, providing the excuse that their nomadic lifestyle was because “conspiratorial FBI agents” were after them, when in fact, they were running from demanding bill collectors. Despite his brilliant mind, Rex suffered from severe alcoholism. Because he continually fell short of the expectations of fatherhood, he was overwhelmed with depression and sought drinking as a way to disconnect himself from his parental issues. Rose Mary Walls, a free-spirited painter and writer, heavily promoted self-sufficiency, and therefore led to her light parental control and lack of provisional care.
She taught her kids the power of resilience and gave them an appreciation of nature, literature, and art. However, her inability to hold down a job for extended periods of time evoked resentment in her children and caused their food supply to be as irregular as a place they could call home. Most mornings the kids would attempt to awake their mother and force her to attend her teaching job in vain, while at school they were bullied for their oddness, and would dig through the garbage after lunch, looking for scraps.
The combination of these two dynamic personalities caused their children: Lori, Maureen, Jeanette, and Brian, to suffer an unimaginably rough childhood, though their innocence hindered them from seeing it as so. At only the age of 3, Jeanette was trying to display her independence through cooking hotdogs without guidance, when her dainty pink dress caught aflame, insinuating harsh burns all over her body. After spending six weeks in the hospital and requiring skin grafts, her father “rescued” her by running out of the building before doctors could stop him.
This left Jeanette with troublesome scars and a case of pediatric pyromania, a disorder in which an individual purposely sets fires to relive stress or tension. Additional appalling events for a child ensued, forcing Jeanette to turn these situations into comedic incidents to cope with them. In one of their many hasty getaways from the “FBI agents,” Dad decided to throw Jeanette’s cat out of the car window, for according to him, “anyone who didn’t like to travel weren’t invited on our adventure.
” Lori was then bitten by a scorpion and writhed through terrible convulsions while Jeannette was accidentally thrown from the family station wagon and had to wait in the grueling desert heat until her family realized she was missing; later rubbing off dried blood as her dad plucked pebbles from her face with pliers. When Jeanette was a teenager, a neighborhood pervert molested her. Later, her parents decided to move from the Southwest area where their children had grown up to West Virginia, home to Rex’s family.
Near their impoverished household lay a river that supposedly had “”the highest level of fecal bacteria of any river in North America”, an obvious hazard for children. Hinting that Rex’s mother had done the same to Rex when he was younger, she sexually abuses Brian while an uncle of Jeanette’s molests her. These unnerving occurrences forces each of the Walls children to eventually escape from their deprived childhood and find refuge in different places, especially the vast city of New York. The appealing and creative style of Jeanette Walls offers an
entertaining story with an extremely heavy undertone. Her writing clearly shows how she and her siblings were thoroughly convinced that their unsettled, destitute childhood was an adventurous rollercoaster, full of excitement at what is around the bend, and never questioning what had previously transpired. In one symbolic scene, Jeanette tells her mom that she would water and protect the ancient Joshua tree they spotted in the desert from the wind so that it would grow from its gnarled, bent self into a tall, straight tree.
However, her mother replies, “‘You’d be destroying what makes it special. ’ She said. ‘It’s the Joshua tree’s struggle that gives it it’s beauty. ’” The challenges the Walls children faced in their youth make their ability to lead normal lives in adulthood even more inspiring. By writing with the non-judgmental approach of a child, Jeanette Walls weaves a classic tale of despair with the beneficial lessons she took from her past to evoke sympathy and anger towards Rex and Rose Mary for their parental choices.
Her descriptive vocabulary and complex sentence structure captures the reader’s attention and stimulates his or her imagination. Overall, readers will marvel at the strength and perseverance of the Walls children. The story is largely captivating, though dry at points and similar to plotlines of other books full of childhood despair. This memoir is not only a good read, but also an important lesson for all parents: be aware of the grip you have on your children. The amount of influence you have on your kids is similar to Goldilocks: it has to be just right.
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