The Glass Castle Essay

2000 words - 8 pages

Could the dysfunction of the Walls family have fostered the extraordinary resilience and strength of the three older siblings through a collaborative set of rites of passage? One could argue that the unusual and destructive behavior of the parents forced the children into a unique collection of rites of passage that resulted in surprisingly resilient and successful adults. In moving back to Welch, Virginia, the children lost what minimal sense of security they may have enjoyed while living in their grandmother’s home in Arizona. The culture and climate (both socially and environmentally) along with an increased awareness of their poverty resulted in a significant loss of identity. As they learned new social and survival skills in this desperate environment, there is a powerful sense of camaraderie between the older children. Their awareness, drive and cunning survival skills while living in Welch result in a developing sense of confidence in their ability to survive anything. This transition, while wretched, sets the stage for their ability to leave their environment behind with little concern for a lack of success. As the children leave, one by one, to New York, they continue to support one another, and emerge as capable, resourceful young adults.
The last days of Arizona living were hard, the disastrous Grand Canyon trip left them with no car, and Rex was drinking and violent again. As they left town, it came as no surprise to the children that they left everything but one special choice behind. They were familiar with this method of moving on Rex Walls style (Walls __). Jeanette comments “I ran into the backyard and said goodbye to the orange trees” (Walls 124). This poignant goodbye shows her awareness that such a simple bounty ought to be appreciated. While en-route to Welch, the family slept in their car in Oklahoma, waking up to find people peering in and laughing at them. The deplorable piggy bank car, with the garbage bag passenger window, and junk tied to the roof could not be ignored. Rose Mary commented, “You know you’re down and out when Okies laugh at you.”(Walls 129). This experience embarrassed Jeanette who covered her head, but more importantly created the understanding that their family had hit a new low in their lives. In a sense, they began to self-isolate to prevent further embarrassment.
With the arrival of the family in Welch, the sense of disconnection was furthered by the blending of family politics. The Walls family, dependent upon the charity of Rex’s parents for food and shelter now had to contend with racism and sexual abuse. The children who had been encouraged to speak freely about their opinions now had to keep quiet. Jeanette had visited a different neighborhood which her uncle had referred to as “Niggerville,” and this blatantly racist attitude was a shock (Walls 143). The grandmother accosted Jeanette that day, commenting “keep this up and people are going to think you are a nigger lover” not only was the...

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