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The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

By:   •  December 10, 2018  •  Essay  •  2,039 Words (9 Pages)  •  142 Views

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Food. Clothing. Warmth. Electricity. Trust. Dream with attainment. All things the Walls family lived without. All of these tragic occurrences served as a blockade to their dreams. In The Glass Castle, each member of the family is deeply affected by the intense level of poverty that they are living in. They are put in difficult situations, typically resulting in one’s dreams being shot down. The Walls’ fight to escape poverty was damaged from alcohol addiction, lack of support, toxic relationships, the refusal to reach out for help, and unemployment. However, with the responsibilities that the children have learned, there is hope that they will become financially stable.

“1.25 billion people live off of under two dollars a day,” according to Malaka Gharib’s article, “25 Most Shocking Poverty Facts.” Surprisingly, that number could be close to zero by 2030. In Jeannette Walls’ memoir entitled The Glass Castle, the Walls family discovers life’s hardships when living in poverty. The family is constantly on the move because they can’t pay their bills. They struggle to afford food, clothing, a properly functioning home, and the basic necessities in life. With Rex (Dad) being an alcoholic, and Rose Mary (Mom) addicted to the excitement that arises from her husband, the four kids are left in difficult situations. At an extremely young age, the children (Jeannette, Lori, Brian, and Maureen) are responsible for cooking their own food, finding their own clothes, and making money. The kids feel pressure to take care of each other and give one another the best childhood as possible, because their parents won’t. When any of the kids can scrap up some money, it is usually stolen from their Dad to buy alcohol. Rex and Rose’s selfish ways of parenting result in the family living in a deep level of poverty, and living horrible lifestyles. The lack of proper parenting in the Walls family leads the kids into appalling situations that nobody should be in.

There are several common occurrences throughout the book that show the intense level of poverty that the Walls family is living in. The main reason the family is financially unsuccessful and unable to earn a living to support their children is because of Rex’s addiction to alcohol. The majority of the family's earnings ended up being wasted on alcohol for Dad. One of the examples that shows the family’s level of poverty is their struggle to find affordable and nutritious food. Jeannette states, “We did eat less. Once we lost our credit at the commissary, we quickly ran out of food. Sometimes one of Dad's odd jobs would come through, or he'd win some money gambling, and we'd eat for a few days. Then the money would be gone and the refrigerator would be empty again“ (67). According to “ 11 Facts About Global Poverty,” from the United Nations Development Programme, “ almost half of the world’s population-- over three billion people are living in extreme poverty, and 805 million of those people don’t have enough food to eat.” When the Walls would move into a new neighborhood, they were often not the only ones living in poverty. Several of their neighbors also couldn’t afford clothes to keep warm, a bed to sleep in, and food. When Rex and Rose Mary could earn money and didn’t waste it all on alcohol, most of it is used to buy food. The family had to somehow make the food last until they can find more money and buy more food. Another example of the family’s difficulty to be financially stable is their ability to afford clothes. Jeannette sorrowfully states, “Mom thought it was superficial to worry about how you looked. She said God thought the same way, so we'd go to church in torn or paint­-splattered clothes” (104). An article entitled ”Man Going Barefoot For A Year For 300 Million People Who Can’t Afford Shoes,” by Eleanor Goldberg states that “over 300 million people worldwide cannot afford shoes or basic clothing.” In “The Glass Castle,” each member of the Walls family uses the same clothes in the winter and summer. They struggle to keep warm, and nearly all of their clothes have missing buttons or they are tattered. This result in the children getting made fun of in school, and they feel discouraged to be seen in public with their clothes. Finally, The Walls family struggles to keep warm during the cold months of the year. There was no electricity in their home, so the house was always freezing. Sometimes, the family could burn coal to warm the house, but often times they couldn’t afford it. Minimal clothing didn’t help this situation either. Jeannette states, “The following week, a storm hit. The temperature dropped, and a foot of snow fell on Welch. Erma wouldn't let us use any coal—she said we didn't know how to operate the stove and would burn the house down—and it was so cold in the basement that Lori, Brian, Maureen, and I were glad we all shared one bed. As soon as we got home from school, we'd climb under the covers with our clothes on and do our homework there” (147). Additionally from “ 11 Facts About Global Poverty,” “approximately 1.6 billion people live without electricity.” Without electricity, the Walls family, and the other billions of people in the world living in poverty don’t have the resources to cook meals and heat their house. With their low income, and Dad using money to buy alcohol, the Walls family struggles to maintain a healthy, happy, and successful lifestyle.

Although poverty rates are continuing to decline every year, it is still a crucial and depressing issue in West Virginia. Not only are people living in the most extreme levels of poverty, but their insufficient income is is setting up barriers for them to achieve their dreams. In The Glass Castle, the Walls family learns that because of their limited amount of money, their dreams are also limited. Dad and Jeannette dream of building a beautiful glass castle. They drew out blueprints, designed each room, and planned out their dream lifestyle. Jeannette states, The Glass Castle would have solar cells on the top that would catch the sun's rays and convert them into electricity for heating and cooling and running all the appliances. It would even have its own water purification system. Dad had worked out the architecture and the floor plans and most of the mathematical calculations. He carried around the blueprints for the glass castle wherever we went, and sometimes he'd pull them out and let us work on the design for our rooms (25). However, the expenses for the castle were beyond any amount of money that the family had, shooting down one of their many dreams. According to the United States Census Bureau’s article entitled “Poverty Data Tables,” in recent years, “14.3 percent of families of all races with children under the age of eighteen are living below poverty.” Shockingly, that percentage is lower than it has been in previous years. Slowly, there are more and more people escaping poverty. It is very difficult for families to escape from such a low level of poverty when they have children to feed, clothe, bathe, and take care of. The kids also were always dreaming about living a normal life, and not having to worry about when their next meal was going to be. They dreamed of having a nice house, warm clothing, and everything their parents couldn’t give them. Jeannette desiringly said, “I dreamed that we had a thermostat at 93 Little Hobart Street. I dreamed that all we had to do to fill our house with that warm, clean furnace heat was to move a lever”(179). Furthermore, “23.6 percent of the children in West Virginia are living in poverty,” according to Talk Poverty’s article, “West Virginia Poverty.” The barriers of the family’s dreams often caused sadness, anger, and frustration in the house. Mom and the kids also dreamed about living amazing lives in New York City. They hoped of success in the busy city, and living in a beautiful apartment. Jeannette states,“That night Lori and I lay in our rope beds and discussed New York City. Lori began to see New York as a sort of Emerald City—this glowing, bustling place at the end of a long road where she could become the person she was meant to be” (222). According to “Child Poverty” on the National Center


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