Whilst some individuals' life struggles seem immensely overbearing and their troubles seem too impossible to overcome, most humans have struggles and problems of their own. Whether they strive to accept and cope with the issues at hand, or let these matters rule their lives consuming their consciousness is an individual choice. Jeanette Walls is the author of a memoir entitled The Glass Castle, which details how she finally chooses to cope and accept much of the struggles that befall her, and the people in her life. In this fashion, she depicts through her experiences how one can come to accept his/her own struggles and learn to master difficulties as well as to compensate for the mistakes of her wayward parents. Through literary devices the author conveys the fact while life poses immense difficulties one learned that the best path in life is acceptance together with the necessary actions to compensate for these difficulties thus creating order in one's life.
Throughout The Glass Castle the hardships in Walls's life are stressed. The reader is always aware of how difficult and harsh Jeannette's life is. She uses certain literary devices such as setting, imagery, point of view, characterization, and plot to portray this constant struggle in her early years.
She uses setting to portray the desperation, dreariness, and impossibility in the locations where she lived. She used imagery to enforce and vividly show the dilapidation, and brokenness of her situation. She uses Characterization to portray the people who create for her the set of difficult and impossible circumstances in which she must remain in her childhood. The plot is to emphasize the numerous helpless situations she was trapped in, and how the climax all came to ahead in Welch, West Virginia. She utilizes point of view in order to show how she perceived these situations, how she learnt from it and what she eventually managed to accomplish despite of them.
Her settings are painted vividly and it is very clear from her descriptions that she was forced to live in harsh and barren parts of Arizona, California, and West Virginia. Before she earnestly began to detail the different locations where she lived, she states that the family were always living in "dusty little mining towns in Nevada, Arizona, and California" (19). Such country towns are impoverished and one could but would not wish to live there with the poor conditions in which one was faced with, because of poor infrastructure and sanitation. These scenes and settings were possible because life became impossible, Jeanette's parents were unable to afford the bills thus they "were always doing the skedaddle, usually in the middle of the night." (19). Life is bleak even though Rex, Jeannette's father, tried to sell their move as a never ending adventure.
The scenery was often bleak even when it was a stable dwelling place. Some places they lived were shabby and quite possibly painful distrot living situations. They lived in blythe where the walls of the small apartment they lived in were "thin Sheetrock walls." (44). While this was probably a housing unit it was rather invasive and cramped. It was definitely inhabitable, but quite the intolerable situation.
The house they had in Battle Mountain was shabby and the room the children slept in was most probably a living room. This was an old waiting room, and this was obvious because "some of the original benches were still bolted to the unpainted wood walls, and you could see the dark, worn spots where prospectors and miners and their wives and children had sat waiting for the train, their behinds polishing the wood." (51). This is not even a proper dwelling place nor one that one really would prefer. It showed how harsh life could be, because this is not a house that anyone would desire or be proud to live in. The house seemed not altogether ready for habitation. This was a sign that times were rough. The circumstance they lived in never became better in Battle Mountain, due to a choice to live this way because of a wasteful and drunken lifestyle. Despite of Rex Walls' employment, there was still a lack of money, because they wasted what they had. The Walls Parents chose to never manage to "master the art of budgeting." (76). They bought luxuries such as a piano before even attempting to fix their home or buy excess amounts of food. IF they used and managed their money wisely perhaps it would last, however, they chose to purchase "bags and bags of food" (56). This wasn't a productive use of their resources and Jeannette Walls even noted that they "bought so much food that we never had much money come payday" (56). They could have had enough money for nourishing themselves, but they chose unwisely to waste this valuable resource, and waste food by eating unproportionally. When her father managed to have money he wasted it by taking his family out to dinner and spending his money on ordering "hamburgers or chili dogs and milk shakes and big plates of onion rings" (55), which can add up. They were also not choosing to order economically and responsibly fully aware that they did not have a large fortune. At another point in time when they lived in Battle Mountain they would celebrate payday by eating out, and they would buy delicious stakes that "tasted so good we forgot we were eating a week's worth of groceries." ((77). Also, the less spent is more resources that they could have possibly saved, or otherwise utilized to improve their living situation, such as remodeling the house. He also wasted it by gambling and playing poker. As Rose Mary Walls pointed out, "'the only research you're doing is on the liver's capacity to absorb alcohol'" (76). This is obviously not a very good way of spending money. However, Rex Walls is addicted to alcohol and is quite the alcoholic. Furthermore in terms of their housing situation, they had lacked money for a number of reasons and they did not have enough to purchase furniture. In order to compensate they used large wooden industrial spools, which they found along the side of the tracks as tables. also according to The Glass Castle, the children slept in cardboard boxes, "and as for chairs, we used some smaller spools and a few crates" (52). This is a harsh and desperate situation. Most people desire to live comfortably and utilize and purchase actual furniture instead of improvised makeshift furniture. The fact that they constantly moved and left everything behind them was a reason for their lack of money. The Walls had left Blithe because they desired to avoid authorities that would recognize their vehicle. Rex Walls had pointed out "the gestapo would have their eyes out for the green Cabose" (48). Hence, they left their car and property they had obtained in Blithe there unmoved. However, her father was unwilling to be honest and instead claimed "that Blythe had become a little too hot" (48), which is an unreasonable reason for moving. They also chose to live in an unsanitary situation where they lived amongst flies, lizards, and other animals. Once Jeanette Walls informed her mother that they "needed to get a no-pest strip like Carla's family, but she refused" (65), which was an unwise choice, which was motivated most likely by a lack of funds, but a choice that had to be chosen nevertheless. Her mother also chose to make unwise decisions. Her mother obtained employment after a prolonged period due to a violent struggle with her husband. However, she didn' value this employment. On the contrary, she despised it so thoroughly that "it was up to Lori, brian, and me to get her out of bed and see to it that she was dressed and at school on time" (74), which seems to be a rather immature and irresponsible choice.
The last and final place the Walls family lived was the worst. They did not have running water or a indoor plumbing system. thus according to Walls, "the house had no bathroom, but underneath it, behind one of the cinder block pillars, was a closet-sized room with a toilet on a cement floor." (151). This toilet had no actual drainage but merely a hole. Jeannette Walls grew up in the late sixties early 70s because LBj was already in power and held political office. Plumbing was invented rather a long time before this decade. No decent person would wish to live this way. Yet, irresponsible choices caused them to be stuck in their situation and made it impossible for them to fix their miserable living situation. The father would go drinking, and despite the lack of funds, he spent irresponsibly on drinks. When his daughter Jeannette Walls came to fetch him, he kept delaying when they must leave, and "ordering more shots, as if he had to gulp a whole bunch of them down before he could face home" (182). This was a poor decision, and this was at the cost of being unable to live in a better environment, because there wasn't sufficient enough cash to improve their situation. Rex walls wasn't their to support his family, much less to renovate the house, as he "had taken to disappearing for days at a time." (171). This was a poor lifestyle he chose for himself, and due to this choice, it negatively impacted his family. Not only did he waste and lose money in this way, he fueled this drunken irresponsible lifestyle by a wasteful, dangerous, and precarious means. He would gamble at bars, and even once persuaded Jeannette Walls to come along, which is negatively influencing his child. He would pretend to be mediocre at gambling "lost, some money to robbie, then started upping the stakes and beating him." (212). Even, if he could sometimes get money, that's not always the case with gambling, and in fact could lose wastefully as well. It was also a immoral method to obtain money. Meanwhile, her mother didn' alleviate the tensions in the household. ON the contrary, she was responsible for the misery as well. When Rose Mary was upset and moody "she retreated to her sofa bed and stayed there for days on end crying" (186). This did not improve the situation. She could have chosen to be useful, working, improving the house, or a number of other options. Yet she chose to do none of those things until it became desperate. When she obtained a job, she did not become more responsible. She did not value her work, because if she was upset and thought negative thoughts, she "would refuse to get out of bed, even when Lucy Jo showed up to drive her to school, honking impatiently" (207). She already had issues at work but didn' act professionally. As usual when they had the money, it would be wasted. She didn' even value the job or take it seriously, not being concerned about being fired. eventually she refuse to work and chose to stay home and "intended to quit her teaching job and devote herself to her art" (218). This was a decision that did not help the situation because of their already impoverished situation. She chose to cause the family to be more impoverished. This was because Rose Mary Walls decided "'It's time I started living my life for me'" (218). The fascinating aspect of this was in a way she was already doing this, and in fact she was rather self absorbed.
Some houses were decent, but other things lacked. Most of the settings in small towns where the only businesses was on Main street. In Battle Mountain where they lived for about a year Main Street contained "grocery store, a drugstore, a ford dealership, a Greyhound bus station, And two big casinos," (51), which wasn't much and probably was a town most stopped by for gambling. Gambling was probably the way most of these small towns sustained themselves. Surely, This isn't an environment very conducive to great life, and someone who could would attempt to avoid this inhabitation. The final town, before New York they lived in was also Shabby. It was a coal mining town in West Virginia Named Welch. It was a coal mining town, and this effected the environment around the town, because "the stores, the signs, the sidewalks, the cars were all covered with a film of black coal dust." (134). This does not edify the town or help it look presentable, and no maintenance was regularly scheduled to deal with the grime. It's not a very encouraging place for new people to travel to or want to settle in. Besides the coal and the dark brown coal dust coating the entire town, there were further signs of bleakness. The trees along side the river named the tug was adorned with toilet paper. Furthermore the river, "had the highest level of fecal bacteria of any river in North America." (133). This shows how unpresentable the town was. It was not only shabby and dusty, however, also unsanitary and rather not hygienic. This is obviously not a very proud or rich place to live. Yet, this is where the Walls family chose to live. They could have chosen other locations where they had not moved to before. Furthermore, They had a big fine house in Phoenix, where they could had had remained. However, Rose Mary walls had decided it was a wiser idea to move the family to West virginia. This was on the premise that "maybe his parents would help keep him in line" (123). This obviously didn't happen, in fact Erma Walls made life more difficult because she did not like the children, who had refused to let her harass any of them. Jeannette walls Grandmother motivated by a grudged banished her grandchildren from her house mercilessly. There was to be no exceptions walls claimed "even if we stayed in the basement and kept as quiet as a church mice." (149). Despite of living in a more desperate situation, there was no initiative to return to Phoenix. Another of the settings was clearly in a desert, because "the desert sand ran right up to the back door" (35). In the desert in Midland they also struggled because they had no water that existed there, thus "water for humans came in on the train once a day," (37). which isn't the most comfrtable environment for dwelling. A person who had a choice would probably wish to live somewhere with water. However, the Walls family chose this location because the mother thought that the tree "was one of the most beautiful trees she had ever seen" (35). This is not altogether the ideal method to choose a location in which they would live.
If the setting was not dilapidated and it was decent, What was done with the place made it seem deprived. A "motel room with dark red walls and two narrow beds" (32), in Las Vegas isn't a terrible place except the way the Walls family used it with three children in a bed, which was narrrow, which probably is meant for a single occupant. This was however, a choice. They were very wasteful here. the only reason Rex Walls chose this place was because he was able to gamble and feed his gambling addiction. As most gamblers, when they win money in gambling, they don' savor and value it, instead they intend to wast it. Rex walls spent his money unwisely. Walls claimed, "he bought us cowboy hats and fringed vests, and we ate chicken-fried steaks in restaurants with ice-cold air-conditioning and a miniature jukebox at each table" (32). A rather waste of money. It was irresponsibly spent and not valued. This money could had helped them live in a nice house or apartment. This money could have also been spent on a bigger fancier room, which contained more beds, so all the children need not sleep in one bed.
They lived in downtown Phoenix Arizona, which is decent, except it was a poor and rough section of town with many homeless people. Some of the households occupying the neighborhood were "a couple of dozen people in each house, men drinking beers from paper bags" (94). Their were obviously many people who drank. Their was also Gypsies living "down the block in a big falling apart house with plywood nailed over the porch to create more indoor space." (102). These Gypsies would live shabbily and steal things. There were also perverts "shabby hunched men with wheedling voices who hung around on street corners and followed us to and from school, trying to give us boosts when we climbed a fence, offering us candy and loose change if we would go play with them." (102). It was a beautiful peaceful neighborhood but as cities developed there are often changes, some not always for the better. Not altogether an area that people who wanted to live a decent peaceful life would want to live in. The house seemed to be quite grand but lack of cleanliness and upkeep meant problems. They had cockroaches and termites. The problem became so severe that the Walls family had to conduct "roach massacres in the kitchen at night" (100). This dilemma could have been avoided, however, due to the lack of attention to living conditions it was problmatic. This also made it a harder life for the children. The house was also shabby because it was infested with termites making the floorboard spongy,and the Walls family "kept stepping on soft spots in the floorboards, crashing through,and creating new holes." (101). Instead of dealing with the issue probperly and fixing the floordboards which would probably cost quite a bit of money, yet would preserve the beauty of the house, they decided to patch it up themselves. In doing so, this also ruined the beauty of the house and made it shabby and ragged, as Rex Walls Jeannette Walls's father simply "snipped the can open with his wire cutters, hammered it flat, and nailed it over the hole." (101). This was a choice. If they desired it, they had the cash to remodel their house properly. Instead the Mother chose inefficiently to spend her money she brought back many canvases but not only that, they also brought back "oil paints,watercolors, acrylics, gesso, a silk-screeing frame, india ink,paintbrushes and pen nibs, charcoal pencils, pastels, fancy rag paper for pastel drawings, and even a wooden mannequin with movable joints" (97). She used her money in that fashion, buying many other items and used them wastefully. This was not a great use of their wealth as the money inherited could have been saved for when it was necessary to use it, such as for remodeling the house. The father did not improve the situation, in fact, he aggravated their dilemma. The Father was rather drunk and angry, thus "he broke windows and smashed dishes and furniture until he'd spent all his anger" (112). Their house was already dishevelled and in need of improvement, and breaking objects in the house worsened their situation. All this harshness in her situation which effected her and which was clearly not something she was proud of was a constant shame. She struggled and was self-conscious about the situation and even attempted to adjust her life and bild something new. In New York when she was married to Eric she attempted to patch up her past and "tried to make a home for myself here, tried to turn the apartment in to the sort of place where the person I wanted to be would live." (4). This was one of the ways she coped and placed the situation behind her altogether. She attempted to create a entirely different life and begin afresh. She attempted to support herself and lived in far more comfortable and less desperate situations. She found work and was working "at a hamburger joint on Fourteenth Street" (247). She was beginning to learn how normal people lived and worked to suppport themselves. In the midst of attempting a new lifestyle Walls discovers that they need not had lived in poverty, because "all those years in Welch with no food, no coal,no plumbing, and mom had been sitting on land worth a million dollars." (273). This is a choice the mother had made, and had costed the entire family to suffer in misery. Even throughout the barren, unsurvivable life, she chose to not act, and act not to make life more barable. whilst the struggle for survival was occuring however, Jeannette Walls had remained tranquill and attempted to cope.
Throughout her life, Jeanette Walls had a positive spirit, even in the darkest hour. Positivity to her could defeat any ills that befalls her, great or minuscule. She had but little choice, as her parents would manipulate and almost demand that they have a positive spirit. If any of the children became upset, their father would persuade them that he'd take care of them, or the mother would become upset and sob. Rose Mary would tell the children for example, "'' it's not my fault if you're hungry'" (9). At three years old, after receiving a severe burn in the kitchen whilst cooking, she remained positive. She was cooking unsupervised because her mother refused to care for her children or even be attentive. The mother was focusing on herself and was "in the next room singing while she worked on one of her paintings" (9). In the hospital her words were to the nurse who attended to her, "'if I'm not, that's okay, too'" (10). Most adults are not at ease when they become injured. A child would be positively upset. Most Children tend to not be able to take even the most minor of injuries well. Some children may be slightly more at ease, but to completely dismiss it, and be positive about possibly not surviving or being permanently disabled is rather unusual. This was necessary, because she had no other route to travel along. No matter what the result, no one was concerned about her well being. She also accepted the fact that she had to cook for herself rather readily. Cooking was easy and her mother told her she was mature for her age, which was a compliment to her. When they inquired concerning why she was cooking, she gave them instructions on preparing hot dogs , " just put the hot dogs in the water and boil them" (10), and then proceeded to inform them of her process. It was as if she was not at the moment in the hospital, suffering severe burns. Her reaction reflected her circumstance, because the best thing to do was to move on positively even amidst strife, because there wasn't any other path to go along or anyone there to support her. The only method to proceed was to stay strong and even learn to cope, which she did. She didn't only just cope, but went to extremes to "stealing matches from dad" (15), and she proceeded in this fashion to play with fire. After such a burn most would be traumatized but trauma had no place here, so she attempted to over come it by being even nearer to the source which injured her.. Most children would not do this, but this was the only way of coping. In another instance the door had opened and Walls had fell out of the car. She had hope in her parents even after they drove away, and noticed not a thing. Despite of this she "decided that if mom and dad did come for me, they wouldn't be able to find me" (30). Most children would have never reacted as well or have any such rational thoughts. The trust in her parents is not common amongst other children, yet, it was the best way to cope, to believe her parents loved and cherished her, even if that was not the case. Another instance of coping was when she had a split lip due to a fight that had transpired that afternoon, which she equated to "'this lil 'ol' scratch'" (45). She was rather young, most children would react as if they were in mortal danger due to a split lip, and would never cease his crying. becoming emotional would never had done any favors in this situation, so the best thing to do was to cope and do what was necessary for the situation at hand. At another point in time, Jeanette Walls Mentioned that her father did not understand how to train his child to swim, and wasn't able to afford swimming lessons, because he was rather poor. She believed and even came to be convinced that her father was correct when he consoled her by "telling me that he loved me,that he never would have let me drown, but you can't cling to the side your whole life,that one lesson every parent needs to teach a child is ' you don't want to sink,you better figure out how to swim.' (66). This is a terrible thing to tell your child, furthermore, it was a terrible excuse due to a lack of ability to explain the truth. Walls didn't desire to believe that her father was a harmful and irresponsible parent. Thus the only method of coping thus was to believe his horrible explanation. This is certainly not healthy for a normal child, but in Walls's situation, nothing other could possibly be done. Another way to cope with their hunger and happiness was to consume candy. In order to have cash to purchase such luxuries they had to collect it by walking "along the roadside picking up beer cans and bottles that we redeemed for two cents each" (62). This is not exactly a life any child would want to live, their parents had no food to give them, and definitely no candy. Therefore, this was the only means by which they would be able to obtain such luxuries. They were so hungry as well, that they had to seek out their own victuals by thievery. If no one was present in the kitchen Jeannette Walls would "grab something out of the refrigerator or cupboard and take it into the bathroom and eat it there, always making a point of flushing the toilet before leaving" (68). These are not thoughts or actions of a child who is happy. who had no worries or burdens. She had no other means to cope, and to prevent starvation she commits this immorality as a child. A similar coping mechanism is a need to dig in the rubbish bins or dumpsters. In welch when she was in high school, which was long after she had first learnt to dig in the dumpster, Jeannette Walls decided she would "sneak into the cafeteria once everyone had left and dig through garbage pails" (31). This is shameful, improper, and unsanitary, however, for Jeannette, that was the only method to survive and cope with the starvation. Not a method anyone would enjoy, and something nobody delights in, but her situation at the time, required this type of drastic desperate low class behavior. Another instance of coping was when they lived in the dilapidated house upon the hillside, she would wish to be back in and dream of the desert and the sun and the big house in Phoenix with the palm tree in the front and the orange trees and oleanders in the back" (54). This is not what someone would wish to dwell upon, a place they could be living in. This thought however assisted with the gloomy situation for a while. It gave her hope to cope with the situation by imagining this dilapidated house was a temporary home, that is until they could return to phoenix. This eventually fails to provide hope when Jeannette discovers that they will not be returning to Phoenix. Another similar coping mechanism is a hope to build a bigger, more wholesome, and attractive place as promised by their father, the Glass Castle he had planned over the years. They had so much hope that it would be built that it didn't matter that their father was not home to plan and construct their new home. Despite of this fact, their coping strategy was to accomplish the task at hand themselves, thus they "spent just about every free minute digging a hole" (155). This was merely a hole, but it helped them with hoping that they would be able to assist in building a house or this hole would motivate their father to build it. It gave Jeannette and her brother something to look forward to, some hope that they wouldn't always have to live in that uninhabitable shack. This wasn't a great way to cope especially when it was ruined by their father deciding to dump their trash in there, due to a lack of other options. This dashed their dreams of living in a better house.
Trials and tribulations such as poor living condition, lack of sanitation, starvation, neglectful parenting, and lack of resources are an inevitable consequence of living, for some, life proves to be much more of a Challenge. People are able to be hardened in the right situations, and others choose to live a peculiar, alternative lifestyle. In all of these cases, the way to be at peace with it is to accept it. To this end, the moral of The Glass Castle is this very point. Jeannette Walls depicts these very points in her book and takes us through her life and thought process. She shows her readership how she reaches this very conclusion. This paper has shown how the author of this essay thinks that this is the theme and this is what the book is trying to portray concerning life and it's conditions. From this theme we shall learn, for this is simply the truth. If we allow the trials of life to effect us or cannot except the reality of the differences in lifestyles of others we are doomed to bitterness!