In Jeannette Walls captivating memoir, The Glass Castle, the reader becomes enthralled with Jeannette’s constant battle between defending her family and the greatness she hopes the Walls will amount to, and settling for the fact that her family is based off of false hope and senseless lies with her incredible story telling techniques. The time the Walls spent living in Welch, Virginia serves as a major transition period for everyone in the family.
While Lori, Jeannette, Brian, and Maureen were all growing up and trying to discover their identity, Rex and Rose Mary Walls ere still struggling to discover the identities they always longed for but never could make a reality. Before the Walls move to Virginia, it was clear that Just picking up and moving wasn’t as easy as it always had been, and the idea of a “great adventure” meant nothing more than a long car ride with only one possession.
The reader’s compassion for Walls increases at this point in the story as well, as an older Jeanette becomes more aware of her families situation, vulnerability is present in the usually strong willed young lady. Jeannette appeared strong willed in every aspect in her life, xcept when it came to her family. The reader realizes that although Jeannette becomes furious with her depressed mother and disgusted by the squalor her family lives in, she sacrifices money, time and speaking up for herself because deep down she wants to defend her family and believe that things aren’t really as bad as they seem.
An interesting aspect of reading Wall’s memoir is that the tone can be perceived in an interchangeable way. The way Wall’s reveals the story can be heard as an older, wiser Jeannette, the Jeannette who is now a famous author reflecting on er past, or a small, fragile Jeannette telling the story as if it is happening as it is being read. It is a true talent to be able to tell a story this way because it leaves the reader feeling as though they know the author as the woman writing the memoir, and as a little girl living through her life. Life on Little Hobart Street was torturous during the wintertime due to the lack of heat.
While bundling up in big blankets and cuddling together to try and keep warm through each other’s body heat, Walls conveys that the temperature difference between inside and outside may have only een a few degrees. At one point, after Jeannette and Brian discover there is no insulation in the house, Jeannette tells her mother her dislike for the cold and the winter months, yet as usual Rose Mary responded that winter kills germs, a peculiar sentence but as usual got her out of any further explanation of a comment coming from one of her children.
Walls wrote after Jeannette’s conversation with her mother that, “that seemed to be true, because none of us kids ever got sick. But even if I’d woken up one morning with a raging fever, I never would have admitted it to Mom. Being sick might have meant staying home in our freezing house instead of spending the day in a toasty classroom (177). ” In this passage it becomes unclear whether this tone is meant to be from the Jeannette living in that moment or the Jeanette writing this memoir.
The interchangeable tone that Walls is able to incorporate into the book is effective for the reader because they are able to interpret whether this book was meant to be read in the point of view of an older or younger Jeannette. The astonishing imagery of the Walls family living conditions throughout the story is very Important Decause wltnout It tne reader wouldn’t truly unaerstana tne extreme level of the familys poverty and dysfunction.
As if the wintertime wasn’t bad enough, spring brought on the dew and change in air temperature, which left the house on Little Hobart Street infested with signs of life that are usually not welcomed in a person’s home. “Everything in the house was damp. A fine green mold spread over the books and papers and paintings that were stacked so high and piled so deep you could hardly cross the room. Tiny mushrooms sprouted up in the corners. (185). ” This escription shows that this house wouldn’t even be considered a decent tree house, let alone the living environment for six human beings.
The imagery excels further as Wall’s discusses the bathroom situation; due to the rotting porch the outside bathroom became basically unusable. The good news about this meant that there would finally be a way to relieve yourself in the house, and the bad news was that the toilet came in the form of a yellow bucket, settled on the floor of the kitchen. “When it filled up, some brave soul would carry it outside, dig a hole, and empty it. This raw and crude detail was something that clearly didn’t get lost on Jeannette, and certainly did not get lost on the reader.
A detailed sentence of imagery such as this one is Just one example of what makes Wall’s writing style so special. At this point in the story, Walls is not defending her family, yet she is not denouncing them either. More often than not in the story, Walls explains the misfortunes of her family in a factual way. By not adding commentary or extra details of the horrendous conditions she lives in, it hows Walls inclination to defend her family by not adding her emotional opinion of the negatives into the memoir.
At no point during the story does Walls expect the reader to feel bad for her, because that would be a stab to her pride. She elaborates on the sweet moments of her childhood, sleeping under the stars in the desert and reading with her mom while looking up the words that are unfamiliar, and although she includes all of the disturbing moments in her childhood, she does not expect sympathy. Sympathy from readers would mean that Walls was being disloyal to her pbringing and despite everything that occurred and even as she lived a very different life in New York, the feeling of standing by your family always existed within Walls.
The idea of the “glass castle” kept that feeling alive, because the glass castle symbolized the potential of her family, and even though the Walls’ may have never fulfilled that potential; it was undeniable that the potential existed. Even though Walls’ memoir is filled with so many stories and events it is hard to believe that Walls had to select the specific events to include in her story, there is a strategic ay in which Walls chooses to tell her story. At first, Welch showed Jeanette and Brian how much they did not fit in with children their own age.
Although Walls mentions that the fghting is Welch was rather common, it was shocking for the reader to see how common the fighting amongst school children was. Jeannette and Brian found themselves in a scuffle with a group of girls on their first day at Welch Elementary and the siblings soon realized the transition of this move was very different than the transitions had been before. “l rolled away into a puddle, shouting for them to quit nd hitting back at the feet coming at me from all sides.
The other girls had closed in a circle around us and none of the teachers could see what was going on. There was no stopping those girls until theyd had their fix (139). ” The fghting remained frequent for the two and not Just from that group of girls but from others as well, Inclu01ng Ernie Goad wno necklea tne Walls Tor tne poor conaltlon In wnlcn tney Kept their house and their unkempt physical appearance. However, this first detail regarding the fighting was a very important piece of why Welch showed the greatest evelopment of character for Jeannette and the rest of the family.
The leader of pack of playground brawlers was a girl named Dinita Hewitt. Despite their differences at first, Dinita and Jeannette development an unlikely bond beginning with Jeannette assisting Dinita with an English assignment and from there the two spent time together at the community pool. “Dinita and I stayed in the pool all morning, splashing, practicing the backstroke and the butterfly. She flailed around in the water almost as much as I did… l’d never felt cleaner (192). ” Jeannette’s ability to forgive
Dinita for being cruel to her when she first arrived in Welch show an exceptional growth of character for Jeannette’s and explains why she is able to attain a successful future despite her neglectful upbringing. The cleanliness she feels in the pool after a winter of scarce bathing symbolizes her ability to come clean and forgive people for their mistakes and wrongdoings in the past. Jeannette’s capability to do this shows how she is able to look past the dysfunction of her family throughout the memoir in hopes that someday all that she believed her family would amount to would finally ecome a reality.
Jeannette Wall’s incredible story telling skills as well as writing techniques she uses throughout the story leaves the reader astonished at all she has been through and how she still maintains that loyalty to her family. While her tone, imagery and selection of detail make the memoir flow and progress as a story, the message Walls conveys through her words is what truly impacts the reader. By maintaining that balance through the story of believing in her family and their potential for success and realizing the truth about what their fate will ultimately be,
Walls reminds readers that there is no right way to manage your feelings for your family. Despite their neglect and their disinterest in her needs and concerns, a person always is inclined to defend their family no matter what the circumstances are. Jeannette’s time in Welch showed the transition that she went through which ultimately led to her success in New York City. However, it is clear that without everything that Walls went through in her life, she wouldn’t be the woman she is today and therefore her memoir teaches readers that every experience in life shapes the person you become.