The Glass Castle Isu Essay English Literature Essay
By: Yash Shukla
Due Date: April 28, 2013
Teacher: Mrs. Gandhi Patel
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls is a memoir based on the life of the author Jeannette and her family while dealing with adversities and struggles in society. The memoir shows how Jeannette and her siblings are raised by their unconventional parents. Despite the many instances where the Walls’ family travels from one dysfunctional society to another, the setting greatly contributes to the actions that Jeannette and her siblings take to deal with situations that arise. Travelling to locations such as Arizona, Nevada, West Virginia and New York, has a significant impact on the family.
One of the nomadic childhood experiences that Jeannette faces is the instability in homes. Throughout her childhood, the family moves from one place to another. When the Walls’ family settle in the outskirts of Arizona and Nevada, each member of the family experiences many hardships. Jeannette and her siblings are not happy about living in Blythe. One day when coming back from school, Jeannette is jumped by a group of Mexican girls. She describes "a few days after I started school, four Mexican girls followed me home and jumped me in an alleyway near the LBJ Apartments. They beat me pretty bad, pulling my hair and tearing my clothes and calling me a teacher’s pet and a matchstick." (44-45). The other students from school do not accept Jeannette and rather attack her because she is different from the others. Moreover, it shows how the bullying has an impact on her, as she decides to not share this horrific experience with her parents. A few months after moving to Battle Mountain, Billy Deel breaks into the Walls’ residence with a BB gun and tries to shoot Jeannette and her siblings. To defend themselves, the Walls’ children use their father’s pistol. The police officer tells the Walls’ they have to appear to court for a hearing, but like always, Rex Walls was planning to do the skedaddle.
Jeannette states "He told Dad that the whole family would need to come down to the courthouse the next morning and see the magistrate. Billy Deel and his dad would be there, too. The magistrate would get to the bottom of the matter and decide what measure needed to be taken. Late in the evening, [Mom and Dad] came down, their faces still grave. "We’re going to Phoenix" Dad said. "When?" I asked. "Tonight" (89).
This incident truly shows the Walls’ inability to sustain themselves in a location for a prolonged period. Since, the family has to face consequences because of this incident; they decide to move away to Phoenix to rid themselves from the situation. Hence, Jeannette and her siblings are never able to stay in a place for a lengthy period, which is why their childhood is extremely unstable. Although the Walls’ family is content while living in Phoenix, they still experience hardships. The family moves into a new home in Phoenix, that Jeannette’s mother, Rose Mary, has inherited. Jeannette and her siblings are in awe when they arrive on North Third Street.
She says "When we pulled up in front of the house on North Third Street, I could not believe we were actually going to live there. It was a mansion. We kids ran through the house and counted fourteen rooms including kitchens and bathrooms. They were filled with the things Mom had inherited from Grandma Smith: a dark Spanish dining table with eight matching chairs, a hand-carved upright piano, sideboards with antique silver serving sets, and glass-fronted cabinets. . . We were definitely moving up in the world" (94)
While living in this humungous house, the Walls’ live luxuriously. The prosperous belongings Rose Mary has inherited from her mother provide a comfortable life for the family; a life they did not have previously. Furthermore, by moving into this new home, Jeannette believes that her family is moving away from the harsh life that they were experiencing. But she did not know what her future holds for her. One afternoon, Jeannette and Brian see that there is no food in the fridge. They decide to search for food in a dumpster.
Jeannette says "Brian and I come home to an empty fridge; we went out to the alley behind the house looking for bottles to redeem. Down the alley was the delivery bat of a warehouse. A big green Dumpster stood in the parking lot. When no one was looking, Brian and I pushed open the lid, climbed up, and dived inside to search for bottles. . . we found astonishing treasure: cardboard boxes filled with loose chocolate. We pigged out on chocolates, and from then on, whenever Mom was too busy to make dinner or we were out of food, we’d go back to the Dumpster to see if any new chocolate was waiting for us."(110)
Since, Rex was unable to hold a steady job; the children had to feed themselves from the dumpster. Jeannette and her brother had no choice as they were in desperate need of food and because no one brought home money, they were in a situation were desperate times called for desperate measures. To sum up, settling in the outskirts of Arizona and Nevada, the situations presented to Jeannette and her siblings highly contributed to their actions.
The time that the Walls’ family spends in Welch, is a major transitioning period for each member of the family. First, while living in Welch, Jeannette and Brian tackle many problems. For instance, one day Jeannette goes inside her Grandpa’s bedroom and sees her grandma, Erma, doing inappropriate things to Brian. She states "I went into Grandpa’s bedroom and saw Erma kneeling on the floor in front of Brian, grabbing at the crotch of his pants, squeezing and kneading while mumbling to herself"(146). The experience of seeing her perverted grandmother molest her brother, shows how hard the life was in Welch for Jeannette and her siblings. This incident provoked yet another move, as the Walls’ moved to an abandoned house near the hilltops. Next, Jeannette and her siblings foght a lot while in Welch. One of the most spectacular victories they have is the Battle of Little Hobart Street. On a Saturday afternoon, when Brian and Jeannette are in their house reading, Ernie Goad and his friends throw rocks at the house. The situation escalates when Brian is hit in the head with a rock. To fend of the gang, Brian and Jeannette make a catapult out of a mattress. Brian explained "we could make a catapult, like the medieval ones we’d read about, by piling rocks on the mattress and rigging it with ropes looped over tree branches." Although Jeannette and Brian win the Battle of Little Hobart Street with the help of their innovative invention, this scene displays how the Walls’ learned the value of teamwork and how they stuck together through the struggles of their poverty-stricken life. Second, Rose Mary’s selfishness plays a key factor in keeping the Walls’ children hungry and in poverty. For example, one evening Jeannette and her siblings are sitting in the living room trying to not think about food, when they discover that Rose Mary has been eating chocolate under the blanket. Jeannette describes "Brian yanked the covers back. Lying on the mattress next to Mom was one of those huge family-sized Hershey chocolate bars." (174). Rose Mary’s selfishness is revealed as she is secretly eating chocolate by not sharing it with her children. Generally, a mother would do anything for her child to not be hungry, but Rose Mary’s self-indulgent behaviour shows her attitude towards her children. Her children have suffered, as much as she has, from the lack of affection and care not given to them. One day while Jeannette and Brian are scrounging around on their property, they find a diamond ring. They believe it may be worth a lot, as a result, they decide to show Rose Mary. Being the unconventional mother she is, she decides to keep the ring instead of selling it.
She said "So what’s it worth?"
"That doesn’t matter," Mom said.
"Because we’re not selling it."
"But Mom" I said, "that ring could get us a lot of food."
"That’s true," Mom said, "but it could improve my self-esteem. And at times like these, self-esteem is even more vital than food"
The ring could provide the family with food and could release them from all the suffering that they were going through. Moreover, it could prevent the family from being evicted from their own house, but instead, she decides to keep the ring to boost her own self-esteem. Hence, Rose Mary’s selfish attitude is yet again shown as she chooses to not provide her family with food and shelter. In conclusion, Jeannette and siblings face many difficulties while living in West Virginia.
The Walls’ family had changed a lot after coming to New York, and over the course of time all their lives had transformed in different ways. Jeannette was living a very comfortable life and she has more freedom after escaping to New York. When she lands job as a journalist, she is extremely happy and now she has enough money to support herself. "I’d never been happier in my life, I worked ninety-hour weeks, my telephone rang constantly, I was always hurrying off to interview and checking the ten dollar Rolex I’d bought on the street to make sure I wasn’t running late" (248). Jeannette was not a child anymore, she explains that that her life is far less miserable than it was before, and she enjoys her life and her new job. Living in New York was changing, Jeannette’s youngest sibling, Maureen, enormously. When she stabbed her mother, and was sent to court, the problems worsen for the Walls’. Jeannette observed while in the courthouse "I just stood there looking from one distorted face to another, listening to this babble of enraged squabbling as the members of the Walls family gave vent to all their years of hurt and anger, each unloading his or her own accumulated grievances and blaming the other allowing the most fragile on of us to break into pieces" (276). Jeannette explains the situation unfolding after the court orders Maureen to be sent to an upstate hospital. She realizes how much the family has changed after all the years of pain and suffering they have gone through. Next, five years after Rex’s death, the family has finally arranged for a gathering on Thanksgiving. It is their first time celebrating Thanksgiving. Jeannette, along with her new husband John had invited her whole family to visit her in her new home. "It had been five years since Dad died. I had seen Mom only sporadically since then, and she’d never met John nor been to the old country farmhouse we’d bought the year before. Mom hugged me. Then Lori hugged me, and I introduced John" (285). After the long years of constant disputes and arguing, it is the first time they were celebrating together as a family, and Jeannette along with her brother and sister have grown and adapted to their new lives. All in all, Jeannette and her siblings have become independent, and the lifestyle in New York became the sole reason for their behavioural change and progress in adulthood.
In conclusion, the setting in Arizona, Nevada, West Virginia, and New York contributed to the actions that Jeannette and her sibling took, while living in dysfunctional societies.