The Glass Castle. This is a Memoir written by Jeannette Walls about her childhood and family growing up and the hardships they had to face. I am still currently reading the book and only half way through this remarkable biography. Looking at this story in an archetypal point of view I came to the realization that Jeannette is the hero. While I was reading, I was viewing her heroic inner journey. A hero’s inner journey according to archetypal criticism has steps. Some of these steps include:
Not being aware of the problem
Refusing to change (fear)
Wanting to change
Preparing for major change
Big Change with feeling love and death
New challenge and rededication
Final Attempts or last-minute dangers
In The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls faces many challenges in which she has to overcome along side her family. Jeannette and her family moves around a lot because of her alcoholic father. Whenever he loses his job, it’s time for the family to gather their things and move on to the next city. From the beginning of the biography, Jeannette is unaware of how messed up her family is, or is unaware that her dad is crazy (in a good and bad way). Chapter 2 is the start of Jeannette’s journey. She accidentally gets caught on fire while cooking hot dogs at the age of three! She is rushed to the hospital and is asked how she was caught on fire to which she responds “Mom says I’m mature for my age and she let’s me cook for myself a lot” (Walls 11). Her mother and father believes in the kids being self sufficient and they also believe in adventure. Just a bit later in the book Rex Walls (father of Jeannette Walls) woke the family up in the middle of the night saying “time to pull up stakes and leave this shit-hole behind” (Walls 17). Jeannette responds with “is everything okay, Dad?” and Rex says “Don’t you worry. You leave that to me. Don’t I always take care of you?” (Walls 17). This was the start of Jeannette’s inner journey. Step one of a hero’s inner journey is not being aware of the problem. Jeannette is clearly unaware that picking up their things and moving will be the rest of her life and her father is a drunk. Soon Jeannette realizes for herself that her father is an alcoholic, “you flea-bitten drunk”(Walls 20)
screams Jeannette’s grandmother at Rex Walls. From here Jeannette has no idea what to do, her family and Jeannette keep moving. Jeannette is fully aware of what is happening around her, she faces her fears and finally asks her dad to quit drinking on her tenth birthday (Walls 116). Jeannette hopes for a major change. It did not last long though, as the second day after the promise Rex decides to get wasted but Jeannette still has hope. While talking to her sister Lori about her father quitting drinking, she says “this time it will” (Walls 118) because her dad promised as a present he will stop drinking. Jeannette never gets to complete her inner journey, she always starts her inner journey all over again when she is forced to move. To have a fresh again. She always prepares for a major change when she moves, this is step five and from there she starts again at step three. I think is so unfortunate for Jeannette and her siblings; even her mom as she is emotionally abused by the father when he is drunk. Jeannette and her sibling are always the new kids at school, which means that Jeannette is gets bullied every time she moves, “four Mexican girls followed me home and jumped me nan alleyway near LBJ Apartments. They beat me up pretty bad pulling my hair and tearing my clothes and calling me a teacher’s pet and matchstick” (Walls 45). I feel terrible for poor Jeannette as being the new kid does get you into trouble with the other kids. This is another obstacle Jeannette has to conquer but does not get a chance to as she moves before being able to stick up for herself. Jeannette is stuck repeating these same 3 steps over and over again and is unable to complete her journey.
Further along in the book I assume for Jeannette to get unstuck from the cycle she’s in. She does indeed have a good life, with a good paying job, a stable home, food on the table and a loving husband. In the beginning of the story Jeannette says “I was embarrassed by them, too, and ashamed of myself for wearing pearls and living on Park Avenue while my parents were busy keeping warm and finding something to eat” (Walls, 2). This does indicate that Jeannette has a stable life but her parents on the other hand are still struggling, living just like how they lived when Jeannette was younger. From the first few pages of the story I was able to recognize that Jeannette and her parents do not speak to each other often, maybe a phone call once in a while, but she does not have an idea as to where her parents live. She assumes they’re homeless. Jeannette offers to help her parents out but her mom refuses saying “Right there. That’s exactly what I’m saying. You’re way too easily embarrassed. Your father and I are who we are. Accept it.” (Walls 5). According to the inner journey cycle I think later on in the novel Jeannette will realize or encounter a big change. Feeling of life and death which will lead her on the right path to completing the cycle. I assume something might happen to her father, given that he is an alcoholic, which would make Jeannette want to see her family again. This would put Jeannette back on track, helping her to finish the hero’s inner journey.
face the same issue completing their inner journeys. Elena has a problem completing her inner journey as well. It all starts when Elena’s parents tragically pass away, this event was tough on Elena and it is something she will never move on from. Elena’s aunt, Jenna, steps in to take care of them but unfortunately she is killed by a vampire and again Elena is in grieving unable to move on. Before Jenna’s death, she marries a guy named Alaric. Alaric steps in to take care of Elena and her younger brother Jeremy but.. you guessed it, he is killed by a vampire too. Just when Elena thinks she able to move another tragedy occurs. This is where Elena is stuck. Unable to move on. Continue her journey to finally be happy. Eventually she does find happiness. I recommend watching the show to follow Elena’s journey of completing her inner journey. Elena keeps losing the people she loves along her journey, her inability to move on is what stops her from crossing the final step. Mastery. Jeannette’s situation is very similar to
Elena’s, as the thing that stops Jeannette from moving on and finding happiness is moving from city to city and her dysfunctional family. I believe that Jeannette will be able to find happiness along side the rest of the family. Jeannette and Elena both rely on each other’s siblings to help keep them sane. Elena turns to her younger brother Jeremy and Jeannette turns to older sister Lori and younger siblings Brian and Maureen. Both of their parents also play a big role in their journey, they’re both unable to complete the cycle because of their parents. Elena’s parents did love her and Jeremy very much before passing and Jeannette’s parents love their kids unconditionally. This leads me to believe that these two characters are very similar despite their different lives and one is fictional and the other is based on a true story.
It is very surprising to find similarities in two characters with very different stories. I am looking forward to reading the rest of this inspiring memoir and seeing how things plan out for Jeannette and her family. I will now be reading the text through a new lens, always wondering the stages of the journey. I love being apart of Jeannette’s crazy journey.
Walls, Jeannette. The Glass Castle: a Memoir. New York, Scribner, 2017.
“Archetypal Literary Criticism.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 10 July 2017, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archetypal_literary_criticism. Accessed 12 July 2017.