1Many surged into my nose and mouth

1Many of Walls’ childhood experiences in her memoir, The Glass Castle, teach her life lessons, both literal and philosophical. For instance, her father teaches Walls how to swim while living in Battle Mountain. The family visits a hot spring and when Walls’ father decides it’s time she learn how to swim, he tosses her into the center of the deep body of  water, leaving her to fend for herself. After nearly drowning during several tries, Walls is hysterically furious at her father for his method of teaching and does everything she can to get away from him in the water, resulting in her triumph in swimming (66). Walls symbolizes the ideology shared by her parents regarding learning and growth by describing a specific incident with imagery, rationale, and an appeal to the audience’s emotions.Walls describes her first attempt at swimming with vivid sensory details. As she “sinks into the hot, smelly water…her lungs burned… her eyes were open, the sulfur stinging them” (66). Walls appeals to the reader’s sense of smell, touch, and taste, prompting the reader to put themselves in the same situation. With details so specific, the reader can imagine these things happening and feel the same sense of panic that Walls is feeling in this moment. This imagery may even remind the reader of a similar personal experience of learning how to swim, ultimately creating a connection between the reader and the book. This method of learning to swim may be shared among others in the audience, and can be applied to other challenges in life. Walls’s method of structuring her sentences can correspond to the events happening in the text. For instance, when Walls is under water, she describes as if it is truly happening as she is writing the occurrence. Walls’s use of polysyndeton is used to slow down the pace of the text and create the illusion of being underwater for a longer period of time. She incorporates the strategy in three consecutive sentences. “Water surged into my nose and mouth and down my throat…the water was dark and my hair wrapped around my face and I couldn’t see anything.” When she was finally pulled to the surface, she was “spitting and coughing and breathing in uneven choking gasps.” Using these repeated conjunctions evokes a feeling of panic felt when drowning, as if she could be screaming but no one could hear. Walls’ father’s philosophy when it comes to teaching his children to swim, earn money, and survive is very straightforward. He leaves them to fend for themselves, live and learn, and learn by doing. Despite living in poverty, Walls’ father lets his children learn from his and their own mistakes, even if it means no food to put on the table or having to leave their “home” in the middle of the night. Although this technique leaves lots of room for error and danger, sometimes it works out. Other times it does not. For example, Walls was sent to the hospital with severe burns on her stomach because she was “cooking hot dogs by herself at the age of three”. Walls, not even tall enough to reach the stove, was boiling hot dogs while her mother was in the next room painting. When learning to swim, Walls just as easily could have drowned, but her father was there to pull her up if she did. This process of learning can be seen everywhere in her memoir, perhaps leading her to be the strong human being she is as an adult, happy with her battle scars. 2 It is evident that Walls and her father have a special bond, unlike those of any of the other family members. Throughout her memoir, The Glass Castle, Walls explicitly shows the family regarding Walls as the father’s favorite child. The fact that this is made so obvious to the entire Walls family perhaps makes this special bond even stronger. Most parents would altogether deny that they had any favorite child, but that is not the case with Wall’s father. Walls’s father says to Walls once, “‘I swear, honey, there are times when I think you’re the only one around who still has faith in me, I don’t know what I’d do if you ever lost it,” (79). The strongest, most stirring, and constantly developing relationship in The Glass Castle is that of Rex Walls and his daughter Jeannette Walls. As a young girl, Walls’s whole world revolved around her dad. She listens in awe as he tells tales so extravagant and unbelievable that leave the reader skeptical. She puts all of her faith in him and believes that he is without-a-doubt the best father in the world. While her siblings, Lori and Brian, are not fooled by their father’s lies and cons, Walls trusts that her father will follow through on all of his plans of a rich and prosperous life living the The Glass Castle after striking gold with The Prospector. Rex Walls sees himself as a wild animal, an avid survivalist, driven by his instincts. His knowledge of anything and everything completely astounds young Walls, leaving her hungry for adventure and greatness, just like her dad. As Walls grows up, her perfect illusion of a father slowly fades away, with him disappearing for days at a time, then coming home to destroy yet another part of their house in a drunken state. Even then, Walls somehow finds it in her heart to forgive him, because, after all, she was his biggest supporter. She is the only one who still believes in him and is scared what will happen if her father realizes he no longer has her trust. When living in Phoenix, the Walls family has a chance to celebrate Christmas on the true date, not a week afterwards. Walls and her siblings spent weeks preparing for their first true Christmas, as excited as one would imagine they’d be. They’d spent so much time getting ready only for their drunk father to set the Christmas tree on fire, ruining all of the presents and their spirits. Although they were devastated, Walls says no one tried to punish or scold their father. “When Dad went crazy, we all had our own ways of shutting down and closing off, and that was what we did that night.” When their family moves to Welch, West Virginia, that is where Walls relationship with her father becomes its shakiest. Her father’s drinking and gambling problems are at an all time high, and he is gone so often that the readers rarely get moments between Walls and her father anymore. Walls is dragged into situations leaving her vulnerable in more ways than one thanks to her father, who still believes that he is really just teaching his daughter how to survive! One night when her father takes her along to his “business meeting” at a bar, Walls, just thirteen years old, is assaulted by a much older man, all while her father basically encourages the attacker winking and saying, “‘Just don’t do anything I wouldn’t do'”(212). Walls tells her father just to be drunkenly praised for “handling herself.” At this point, Walls’s relationship steadily goes south, giving Walls all the more reason to leave Welch for New York City with Lori and never look back. When she leaves Welch, her father’s last attempt to keep her faith is to take advantage of her love for him and talk about building the Glass Castle. A younger Walls would have instantly fallen for the large blueprints in her father’s hands, but not now. Walls says, “Dad, you’ll never build the Glass Castle,” (238). This is a major turning point for Walls’s and her father’s relationship, as it is the point where her father realizes he can’t win her over with his charm anymore. She has become an independent young woman and doesn’t need him anymore. As she grows into an adult, the reader sees her soft spot for her father is still there somewhere. The relationship they have is bittersweet, as her father realizes the trouble he put his daughter through and she chooses to ignore it. In their final moment together, Walls’s father says, “Never did build that Glass Castle,” and almost in a forgiving tone, Walls responds with, “No. But we had fun planning it,” (279). 5 Many of Walls’s anecdotes in her memoir, The Glass Castle, serve as symbols for something much bigger in the development of her life story. When living in Midland, the Walls came across a Joshua tree, twisting incredible directions. Walls believed it was ugly, “scraggly and freakish,” but her mother believed it was beautiful (35). The tree grew in the open land where the desert ended and the mountains began, in the middle of nowhere.  Walls recalls finding a small sapling of a Joshua tree and wanting to replant it by their house and take care of it so it grows nice and straight. Walls’s mother protests saying, “‘You’d be destroying what makes it special. It’s the Joshua tree’s struggle that gives it its beauty,” (38). The struggle of the Joshua tree can definitely pertain to the struggle of the Walls children’s lives. The tree is constantly blown by the wind, forcing it to grow sideways instead of straight upwards. The Walls children’s lives are also constantly being shaped by the blowing wind of their parent’s ever changing decisions. The hardships they had to physically and emotionally go through is what makes them the people they are today. Although it would have been safer for them to have a more stable childhood, because their childhood was anything but stable, they are able to tell their story and be successful. All things with beauty must also be strong, and Walls’s story is heartbreakingly beautiful and strong. Rex Walls, a major part of Walls’s heartbreaking story, has his inner demons as well. When living in Phoenix, Rex takes his children to the city zoo. He climbs over the fence of the cheetah’s exhibit to get his children closer to the animal. The other visitors yell at his rule breaking as he pets the cheetah who nuzzles its head into his and the Walls children’s hands. Walls recalls petting the cheetah, “He looked right at me. His amber eyes were steady but sad, as if he knew he’d never see the plains of Africa again,” (108). This feeling of entrapment is similar to the feeling of entrapment the Rex feels. Rex identifies with the cheetah who is locked up. He considers himself caged up by society who won’t allow him to live the way he wants. He is caged up by a society who expects him the get a job to support his family. He feels like an animal trapped in a cage, and he shows care for all wild animals in the book. For example, Rex speaks of a dead mountain lion at the hands of a police man, “You can’t kill something just because it’s wild,” (106). He is speaking just as much of himself as he is the wild animals. 3 “Anyway, you know your mom. I’m an excitement addict,” (188). Rose Mary despises the thought of ever going on welfare, and when Walls suggests that Rose Mary leave Rex to receive welfare from the government, Rose Mary hates the idea. She gives any excuse she can conjure up to reason why it’s a terrible idea. As she would say, being with her husband, who is always up to something exciting, is way better for the spirit than money and food for her children. Rugged individualism is the philosophy that all people should be able to support themselves with no help from the government. This phrase can be used to generally define the lifestyle the Walls are living in The Glass Castle. Rex and Rose Mary don’t believe in taking charity from anyone, and will not accept anything from the hands of the government. Although they may believe they are doing what’s right for themselves, it is a common question of whether that decision is what’s right for their four children. Including evidence for both sides of the argument, Walls’s memoir is a compelling story of the allure and chaos of rugged individualism. The Walls live in ghastly conditions in their “house” on Little Hobart Street, with holes in their roof, no heating or insulation in freezing temperatures, food crawling with maggots, and clothes that are falling apart. The Walls are the poorest family on Little Hobart Street, but Rex and Rose Mary never applied for welfare, food stamps, and would not take anyone’s charity. Whenever Walls or her brother, Brian were given bags of clothes, their parents made them give them back, no matter how much they really needed them.  “‘We can take care of our own,’ Mom and Dad liked to say. ‘We don’t accept handouts from anyone.'” The irony is that their children are the ones taking care of themselves during the time they spend in Welch. Even little Maureen found a way to get food from her friends and the neighbors. Rugged individualism is depicted in two ways in The Glass Castle. Walls’s parents hate the idea of receiving any help from the government, and Walls is the one who suggests receiving welfare to her mother. Rose Mary explains that welfare will cause irrevocable psychological harm to the kids and that “once you go on welfare, it changes you… you’re scarred for life,” (188). Again, this is extremely ironic in that the Walls kids have endured enough psychological damage for a lifetime. Walls sees this as an opportunity for a life without maggot filled meals and sleeping under tarp to keep the rain off. Unfortunately, Rex and Rose Mary’s self righteousness blinds them from even trying to create a better life for their children. Rugged Individualism can be seen as an American virtue when practiced with respect to yourselves and your family, in the Walls family’s case, Walls’s parents aren’t considering their children. 8 Walls depicts each of her parents in a very specific way and tone. Her diction exhibits her feelings about each of her parents and their decisions regarding the Walls children. It is obvious that Walls is her father’s favorite child so the two have a very special bond, but she is not nearly as close with her mother. Moments with her father are portrayed as personal and tender, as if she is holding on to each of his words. Moments with her mother, however, are almost uncalled for in The Glass Castle, or otherwise portrayed as very casual. Her mother had more of a special bond with Lori, Walls’s sister. As Walls grows up, her relationships with both of her parents mature into something different than when she was younger. Walls’s portrayal of her father as a child is one of her own personal superhero. She describes him as a knowledgeable, adventurous, and charming. She highlights the sensitive side of him in their personal moments. For example, when testing out her homemade braces, her father comes in her room to see the contraption.  He says to her, “‘Those braces are a goddamn feat of engineering genius. You take after your old man. And I think they’re by God working.'” This part of him that Walls includes in those little moments can make her audience somehow see some redeeming fatherly qualities in an otherwise horrible dad. Walls nullifies the part of her father that makes him a terrible dad even when he does something completely awful to his children. Even after creating a budget for food for her and her siblings, she can’t resist giving her father money for alcohol and cigarettes. She recognizes that “Dad knew I had a soft spot for him the way no one else in the family did, and he was taking advantage of it,” (209). Walls does not portray as much of a soft spot for her mom, recalling instances when blatantly put herself before her own children. At one point in Welch, Walls and her siblings were sitting on the livingroom floor without dinner and trying not to think about food. They find their mother under the covers eating a family-sized Hershey’s chocolate bar, half of it already gone. Her mother just sobs, “I can’t help it, I’m a sugar addict, just like your father is an alcoholic.” Walls does not speak of her mother’s sugar addiction with the same sympathy as she does for her father’s alcoholism. Walls tone depicts hurt and disappointment when speaking of her mother, but when speaking of her father, no matter how drunk he is or how much damage he does to their family, she finds the strength to show him sympathy. For instance when living at Erma’s house, and Rex and Rose Mary weren’t there, Erma sexually assaults Brian, resulting in Walls and Lori confronting Erma. After hearing about this, Rex scolds Walls and her sister even though his mother had attacked his son. Although the reader is made to be angry at Rex, Walls sympathizes with him and questions if “Erma ever did something to Dad like what she did to Brian,” (148). Walls portrayal makes it hard for the reader to completely hate Rex because she gives insight into why Rex is the way he is. Walls’s portrayal of her parents continues to beg the question if they are bad people or bad parents. They believe that they are good parents, are doing everything right and refuse to believe anything otherwise. Walls’s depiction of her parents requires herself as a writer to maintain a balance of attachment and detachment, so as not to make her story seem bitter or trivial. Walls beautifully achieves writing a memoir to a certain degree of detachment. She does not allow the pain and anger of her past to drive her novel, but she is able to see her life artistically.

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