“The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls Analysis
When we were given the freedom to explore our topic, I decided to read upon Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle. Jeannette Wall, an author and journalist, shares the life of her unconventional childhood. I choose to read The Glass Castle because it is a memoir. I have read The novel is filled with personal recounts of alcohol abuse, child neglect, and poverty-stricken childhood. The organization of this memoir is divided into five parts, most of which represent low-income communities where the Walls family lived. Jeannette’s mother was an artist and did not take to domesticity. Her father was an alcoholic. I was hoping that Jeannette’s memoir, The Glass Castle, would give me a more in depth look at addiction. The Glass Castle exceeded all of the expectations. I found myself flying through this book. Jeannette Walls captivated me, recording her childhood experiences in such a way that gives her a unique voice apart from other writers. The issues raised in my book and research expanded my elementary understanding far beyond what I knew.
What did you learn?
Jeannette Walls shares some of the lessons that she has learned in the process of having told her story. Walls reveals the story of her childhood and what it was like growing up with an alcoholic father. One issue that I found interesting within The Glass Castle was the destruction alcoholism brings to the Walls family and instances of domestic violence. There are numerous instances of domestic violence. Jeannette maintains when her father, drunk while driving, gets into a fight with her pregnant mother and Rosemary jumps out of the car. Rex Walls attempts to hit her with his car, Blue Goose, with Jeannette and the Walls siblings sitting in the back (Walls 42-43). On another occasion, Rex Walls lost his job as an electrician and the Walls family started to suffer financially. The Walls siblings began eating less and less and, eventually, they had to resort to eating margarine. This caused Jeannette’s parents to fight more. One day, Jeannette’s father hangs her mother out of a second story window (Walls 71). Jeannette’s childhood ties to the real effects of addiction certainly adds to the effects alcohol has on family relationships.
I felt that Jeannette Walls’ memoir unveiled beneficial personal accounts about substance abuse linked to domestic violence, but I wanted to find even more about the frequently paired correlation between the two issues, so I set out to learn more. Chris Elkins, MA, journalist,has a master’s degree in strategic communication and a graduate certificate in health communication. Chris Elkins has written about health-related topics, interviewed addiction experts and authored stories of recovery. In his article, Chris Elkins discussed the problems caused by alcohol abuse impose profound suffering to family members, which contributes to low levels of emotional bonding, expressiveness and independence (Elkins). While alcohol abuse can have serious health ramifications for the abuser, alcohol alcohol can affect family relationships and withdraw from society at large. A child is incredibly susceptible to parental influence.
One example of how these concerns combine, Chris Elkins recounts that children of alcoholic parents “may hamper a child’s emotional functioning and lead to psychological disorders.” (Elkins). And this has an alienating effect. They have the tendency to be more dishonest to cover up their parent’s alcoholism. They often work so hard to forget and escape from their crazy childhood in efforts to experience normality. A kind of role reversal may relentlessly consume traditional parental guidance.
As someone who has substance abuse within their family, learning about the effects alcoholism has on family relations has led me to better understand the emotional ties my cousins endured to their father’s addiction. These damning effects are more dangerous for the family than the addict themself because they withdraw from society; they essentially become numb. One of the worst parts is that the person with alcohol addiction experiences the brunt of the problems. Family members of alcoholics are affected by a drug that they have not consumed. But furthermore, Addiction runs much deeper than consuming too much alcohol. It is a dependency.
Another point made by Chris Elkins was the compounding factors that frequently pair alcohol misuse and domestic abuse. He reflects on the emotional abuse that may be rooted to alcohol dependence. In addition to the factors that can lead to emotionally abusive communication, drinking abuse can be associated with intimate partner abuse. According to the World Health Organization, “Alcohol makes the frequency and severity of domestic violence worse.” (Elkins). Strong links have been found between the two, especially intimate partner violence perpetrated by men towards women.
We neglect that women can pressurize intimate partner violence too. It just seems that studies are so quick to raise awareness for women victimized by domestic violence. When it is not unheard of for men to be assaulted. Although I can not speak on behalf of male victims, I think that society wrongfully and indirectly emasculates men who are assaulted. This does not and should not lessen the “Me Too” movement; that strongly advocates for women.
One of the most compelling issues I found within The Glass Castle was a look into child neglect. Child neglect has a heavy presence within the Glass Castle and becomes a major theme of the memoir through the constant struggles that Jeannette Walls and her siblings have to face as a result of her parents’ careless choices. Child neglect is the deficiency in meeting a child’s basic needs; this includes, the failure to provide health care. In her memoir, Jeannette recounts when Brian had fallen off of the back of the couch and cracked his head open on the flood. She says, “Brian’s head was wrapped in a dirty white bandage with dried bloodstains.” (Walls 13). Her parents decided not to take him to the hospital. Even after her mother exaggerated the incident saying that blood was everywhere (Walls). These personal accounts from Jeannette’s childhood certainly showed that their parents failed to provide necessary medical care.
But it felt like Walls only scratched the surface of the medical neglect of children, so I researched to learn more. I found an article by Harriet Hall called “Medical Neglect of Children” that was published to Science-Based Medicine. Harriet Hall, MD, previously worked as a family physician assistance before she retired from her practice. Hall studies pseudoscience and questionable medical practices. In her article, she highlights that children welfare is both a parental and societal responsibility. Harriet Hall has been very clever to intertwine issues and controversies of authentic medical neglect cases. Hall complains that all remaining religious shield laws should be done away with. Parents should not rid themselves of responsibility because of their belief systems. She says, “There are still many jurisdiction that exempt parents from prosecution if they act according to religious or other belief systems (Hall). The parents in the cases that Harriet Hall cites held their personal beliefs above reason and evidence.
I concur with Harriet Hall. All remaining religious shield laws should be repealed in regards to the absence of necessary medical attention. There has to be more than “it is my belief”. It is galling how these parents try to evade responsibility for the horrific deaths of their own children. The defense arguments were interesting, to say the least, It is hard for more to understand that mindset of these parents who veto medical care for their ill child. But surely these parents would feel extreme remorse for having deliberately made wrong choice that eluded to the death of their child.
For most of Jeannette Walls’ life, her story was a source of deep shame. Jeannette’s was insecure at their grungy clothes, funky odor, or unkempt appearances. Infact, her ashamed demeanor carried through her young adult years. On day, Jeannette saw your average run-of-the-mill homeless person rooting through the garbage. But unbeknownst to Jeannette, it was her mother. And to her eternal shame, she slide down in the seat of her taxi and hid from her mother. She feared that her secret would be out. She feared that people would find out that her parents were living on the streets of New York while she live in a fabulous apartment with some money (Walls).
To learn more about child poverty, I found an article by Alexandra Chang called “Damaging Effects of Poverty on Children” that was published to Cornell Research. Chang writes about Gary Evans’s longitudinal study: observing children in low socioeconomic neighborhoods. Through his study, Evans “followed children who grew up at or below the poverty line, as well as children who grew up at two or four times the poverty line” (Chang). As a gauge for reference, the majority of Americans grew up above the poverty threshold. As it turns out, half who grew up poor reveal different brain structure and function (Chang).
The neuroimaging is the most engrossing aspect of this research study; however, I wonder how the brain imaging will change in ten years from now. Since the participants in this study were well into their mid-20s. Anxiety and depression is on the rise in the U.S., especially among young teen. Therefore, it would be interesting to conduct this experiment when they are adults. The study would stay the same, half participants whom grew up poor and the other half middle income. Also, tax payers and the government are doing more to help low-income communities. It just makes me think if the awareness will affect their emotional state.
The issues raised in The Glass Castle and my research greatly expanded my knowledge of alcohol abuse, child neglect, and poverty. Before starting the reading process and enlarging my learning through other sources, I was wary. However, the process challenged my baseline knowledge on the social issues discussed in The Glass Castle.
There is a complexity and nuance of alcohol addiction that America is neglecting. Alcohol addiction ties to low levels of emotional bonding, expressiveness, and indepence. Alcohol addicts are not getting the treatment they need. Alcohol addiction is a disease; it should be treated like a disease. For so long, society put down mental health, but we are finally acknowledge its serious ramifications. When will we get there with addiction.