Jeannette Walls’ Memoir “The Glass Castle”

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The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls is a memoir that demonstrates the various social issues Jeannette and her family went through. The major issue that the book’s plot revolves around is poverty. The book retells the situation of Walls, her brother and two sisters and their parents, as they face a lot of these social challenges while growing up and how they are forced to move around places, trying to re-settle because of lack of food and cash. In the memoir, Jeannette went through a series of social issues that affected her life.

Poverty can be described as a lack of personal needs such as shelter, clothing, medical and food. Poverty can be the cause of many other social issues. Wall’s family used to go without food for days and keep it to themselves (Bartkevicius 150). Walls states that ‘At lunchtime when other kids unwrapped their sandwiches or brought their hot meals, Brian and I would get out a book and read… I told people that I had forgotten my lunch but no one believed me, so I started hiding in the bathroom stall during lunch hour (12)”. This lack of food also causes her to go through unsanitary conditions, such as feeding off garbage food, as she says, “When other girls came in and threw away their lunch bags in the garbage pail, I’d retrieved them and returned to the stall and polished off my tasty finds (12)”.

Walls faces a lot of struggles as she grows up. Her father, Rex, is an alcohol addict. He does not have an official job and faces difficulties providing for the family. Jeannette, her daughter, says “Dad devised an ingenious way to come up with extra cash”(Walls 25). He preferred to earn money through creative and shady jobs that did not often last long, such as gambling. Her father’s alcoholism makes him a “dreamer”, promising better outcomes but always staying the same. Jeannette even tried to convince her mother to abandon her father, but she does not listen.

Walls also writes that “We were always supposed to pretend our life was one long and incredibly fun adventure (13)”, showing that the family did not want to accept the fact that they were poor. This tortures them psychologically. Rose Mary has rather different principles. She believes that it is right for children to suffer while they are young. She does not offer much parental help, though she tries to encourage her children even when they’re facing difficulties. Walls says that ‘if things got tight, Mom kept reminding us that some of the other kids on Little Hobart Street had it tougher than we did (23)”

Walls and her siblings faced difficult conditions throughout their childhood, some quite unbelievable. They had to survive the cold winter nights by huddling themselves in bed, in a house that lacked electricity and water. They even had to cover holes in their worn out pants by painting their legs with markers. Most of their schooling, at times, is done at home because their family cannot afford to take them to public schools. Walls says, “We might enrol in school, but not always. Mom and Dad did most of our teaching (18)”. their education is always disrupted because eventually they always have to move out.

Even when their Mom, Rose Mary finally gets a teaching job. It does not change the children’s living conditions. Walls recalls that ‘even though she had a steady job, we were living pretty much as we had before (40)”. The author reveals how slowly improving economically can be tough and stressing. Rose Mary even goes on to quit teaching to focus on art later. At some point, the parents become homeless, after Lori and Brian, their children, try to help them by sheltering them but eventually ban them from their homes. The author creates an interesting experience by retelling the tragic conditions the Walls family went through. The whole story is shaped by the social issues highlighted above, giving it a realistic viewpoint that can be relatable to some readers, because many people have probably gone through these similar conditions at some point in their lives.


Cite this paper

Jeannette Walls’ Memoir “The Glass Castle”. (2022, Feb 20). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/jeannette-walls-memoir-the-glass-castle/

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