Third, it’s a great book for sparking class discussion. To begin with, The Glass Castle is a memoir that follows Jeannette Walls and her family. Throughout the book Jeannette, her brother and sisters, and her parents move throughout the southwest living in all kinds of different places, but no matter where they go they are always facing poverty. Rex, Jeannette’s father, is a brilliant man, who when sober, taught Jeannette and her sisters and brother physics, geology, and most of all, how to take on life courageously.
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Rose Mary, Jeannette’s mother, who painted and wrote, could not handle the responsibility of providing for her family. She would often spend money on art supplies rather than feeding her children and when they did have food they did not eat well. “Jack mackerel was not as good as tuna but was better than cat food, which we ate from time to time when things got really tight. ” (p. 171) Later, when the money ran out, the Walls’ moved to a West Virginia mining town. While the Walls’ were in Blyth West Virginia Rex drank, stole the grocery money and disappeared for days.
As the dysfunction of the family spiraled out of control, Jeannette and her brother and sisters had to fend for themselves, supporting one another as they took on their parents’ lies one after another and, finally, found the means and will to leave home. Moreover, the genre of this book is a memoir and high school students are not exposed to memoirs enough. I believe memoirs are important for high school students to read because it shows true events and proves that these things such as poverty do occur in the world. Also, The Glass Castle is a modern piece of literature.
A lot of the literature students tend to read in high school is older and gets boring. If instead they are exposed to something more modern it is more likely for them to be able to relate to the book and want to discuss it in class. “He found mom in the bathroom, crouched in the tub. As she darted past him, he grabbed her dress, and she started failing. They fought their way into the dining room, and he knocked her to the floor. ” (p. 122) Many kids will experience their parents fighting, maybe not to this extreme, but it is one thing that a lot of kids can relate to and most likely have a discussion about.
Last but not least, one of the best reasons I have for recommending this book to high school students is because it’s great for sparking class discussions. Things happen to the family in the book that students have reactions to, that they have opinions about. “Dad came home in the middle of the night a few months later and aroused us all out of bed. ‘Time to pull up the stakes and leave this shit-hole behind,’ he hollered. We had fifteen minutes to gather whatever we needed and pile into the car. ” (p. 7) This is just one of many parts in the book that could spur class discussions. I would like to know how students would feel if their parent came in the house hollering this. What would they bring with if they only had fifteen minutes? Throughout the book my perception and attitude towards homeless people changed. As I kept reading I kept feeling less and less sorry for them because it seemed as if the Walls’ were determined to be homeless. Over all, reading the book made me feel like homeless people are only homeless because they cannot handle the pressure of having things.
All in all, The Glass Castle is a great read for high school students because it gives them a more modern book to relate to, opens up a lot of discussion and will test their views on important things such as poverty in the world today. Next, I think the author’s purpose was mostly to entertain. The stories she tells throughout the book are unbelievable. I also found it admiring how she was able to become a success despite having parents who could hardly provide for themselves let alone their children. Throughout the book the characters developed tremendously.
Rex, for one, developed interestingly. Although, he seems as if he has good intentions his irresponsible nature leads his family to ruins. All the kids seem to develop quiet interesting as well. In the beginning all the kids liked going on all the “adventures” their parents took them on and found it fun when the beds they slept in were cardboard boxes, but as they grow older they began to enjoy it less and were sick of always being on the go. “We were also too big to sleep in cardboard boxes, and there wasn’t enough room on the floor for them, anyway, so we helped Dad build two sets on bunk beds. (P. 152) As well as having a lot of character development in the memoir there was one important theme throughout the story and that was self-reliance. The kids always have to rely on themselves to get through. If they want food they have to go and find some whether it’s in the garbage cans at school or in dumpsters behind buildings. Their parents are never the ones making sure they are fed or have food. Last, there is a lot of plot development. All through the book there are tons of mini climaxes.
One example is, “As Brian and I were shaking the snow off some promising branches, and we heard a loud boom from the house. I turned and saw flames leap up inside the windows. ” (p. 178) On the whole, The Glass Castle had a lot of character development, themes, and plot development. Furthermore, I believe The Glass Castle is a great book for middle to upper class districts because it exposes students to certain lifestyles they otherwise would have no idea about. I think it would teach those students to be grateful for all the things they have and all the opportunities they are given.
This book is most definitely a prime example for showing that life is not great for everybody, which a lot of kids, especially in high school, don’t understand. A lot of kids these days have everything handed to them on a golden platter and don’t have to work for much of anything, therefore; it would be nice to show those kids how lucky they truly are. Jeannette and her siblings had to overcome a lot of obstacles in order to become successful and not end up like their parents. To continue, the main issue at hand is poverty. Jeannette and her siblings grow up having not much of anything besides each other.
Many times throughout the book they don’t even have food to eat. Also, when they do have money their parents blow through it so fast that it is pretty much useless. Another issue the book deals with is the fact that a lot of students don’t have the support from a two parent home. Jeannette and her siblings don’t even have the support from either of their parents. Their parents are very lazy and don’t really do much to encourage them to become better people than they were. It is almost as if they want to bring their children down with them.
To an extent Jeannette’s dad, Rex, throwing her into the lake at the beginning and telling her to “sink or swim” foreshadows her entire life. Many times she was thrown into the fire and had to find a way to make things work, and learn, without any model for success. If she didn’t find a way she would likely be homeless or dead. This can be an effective and inspiring message for students who are staring college who may feel the same way. To sum up, there were many issues in the book that were overcome that can be very reassuring to students and for others it can show them how fortunate they are.
In conclusion, there are many reasons this book should be put in the senior English curriculum. For one, it is a memoir which high school students are not exposed to often enough. Also, it is a more modern piece of literature that can spark more class discussions and students could relate to the book more than an older piece of literature. Next, I believe it is a refreshing piece of literature that can really show students how fortunate they really are. Overall, this is a great book and students could really benefit from reading The Glass Castle.