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Jeanette Walls

The glass castle is a memoir written by Jeanette Walls. She tells her story through focusing on her family life. Her parents are non-conventional as they refuse to conform to the traditional tasks of being a father and a mother. Her parents are dysfunctional but this teaches their children how to fend for themselves for food, shelter and security through helping each other out. Jeanette spends her entire life trying to work out her relationship with her family and eventually trying to understand them.

Jeanette begins her story when she was in a taxi cab going to an event when she passed by her mother going through a dumpster, she immediately told her cab driver to take her home. After that, Jeanette calls a friend of her mother and arranges a lunch date. With their encounter after several months of not having contact pushes Jeanette to recall her childhood within her dysfunctional family. Jeanette recalls when she burnt herself while cooking her lunch while her mother was in another room working on one of her paintings. When Jeanette burnt herself and was able to scream for help.

That was the only time that her parents came to her rescue. At the hospital, Jeanette was asked by the doctors how she got burnt and how she got her other bruises, she answers the doctors by saying that she got them from playing outside and from cooking her meals. While at the hospital, Jeanette learns about the injuries of her other siblings which they got due to the negligence of their parents. One morning, Jeanette was asked by her dad to pack her things up because they are moving. For a while, the family lived like nomads, moving from one place to another in order to run away from the bill collectors.

With the constant moving, the children never went to school but they learned things that school teaches other children from their parents. In one occasion, Jeanette’s mother and father fought in front of the children. Both were violent, called each other names and cursed at each other. As the story progresses, the children found a way to move out of their parents custody and live separate lives away from their dysfunctional parents. In the story of Jeanette, the constant moving of the family holds a primordial role in the progression of the story.

The constant moving of the family from one place to another may be treated the same way as children moving from different households and different environments in the face of the parents getting a divorce and forming new relationships. Children moving from one household to another because of new relationships that the divorced parents form show a trend of a not quiet transition. There were no children studied that moved to the new household quietly; the children moved noisily, angrily, sadly and joyfully (Smart, Neal & Wade, 293). Children moved with strong reactions thus not making the transition quiet.

This is evidence that the children are not mere receptacles of the dictates of the family and the parents. In relation to this, the moving of the Walls family from one place to another just like nomads may also be treated the same way as children changing households at the face of divorce and new relationships. This is so because the moving out from one city and heading to another is the same as drastically changing the environment of the children. As what Smart, Neals and Wade stated, the moving from one household to another is not exactly quiet. Children always show strong feelings of either happiness or sadness.

With this being the case, for the Walls family, the moving made the children feel sorrowful and skeptical. For Jeanette, being a middle child, she found their nomadic lifestyle sad because they had to leave their things behind. This includes the family pets. As for Lori, the older sibling, she feels skeptical about their moving out of one city and heading to another because she no longer believed her parents that their travels are some sort of adventure. In addition to this, with the constant moving of the family, the children were never able to create close personal bonds with other people outside of the family.

With this, it is apparent that what Smart, Neal and Wade stated holds true; that children never moved quietly from one household to another. The children always held some sort of strong feeling towards the change of environment. According to Giddens, as cited by Smart, Neal and Wade, in post traditional societies, individuals are more necessitated to come up with their own solutions and moral maps as they face transitions in their lives. In addition to this, the individuals more often than not construct their own biographies rather than following custom and tradition (293).

In relation to what Giddens said, the Walls family is a clear example of a post traditional family. The family faced a vital transition period when their father died. With the death of their father towards the end of the story, the siblings and the mother found ways to separate from each other and live separate lives. With their own lives, the family saw little of each other since then. This is a manifestation of the individuals in the family coming up with their own solutions and formulating their own moral maps for their problems, that which is living with dysfunctional parents.

The individuals in the family found a solution to their problem by going on separate ways and living their own lives such that they would no longer affect each other adversely. The parents of Jeanette is an example of the post traditional parents that instead of following conventions, constructed their own moral codes and ways of living. This is apparent in how the parents of the Walls family raised their children. The parents of Jeanette taught their children how to fend for themselves. They gave the children the responsibility to find food, shelter and security for themselves.

This is most apparent when Jeanette tells the doctors when she was hospitalized due to the burn she got while cooking her lunch. According to Jeanette, she was allowed to do all those tasks at home because her parents think of her as already mature for her age thus making her responsible for herself. In addition to this, the mother of the Walls family refuses to cook meals for the rest of the members of the family because she would rather make a painting that would last a lifetime rather than craft a meal that would be consumed in a few minutes.

With this, it is apparent that the mother constructed her own way of life that is different from the conventions of customs and traditions. This is so because, as a post traditional family, she found that her craft and passion that molded her own beliefs holds more importance than the prevalent customs and traditions. As for the father of the family, he sought ways to run away from the bill collectors by forcing the family to always move from one city to another. This is a manifestation of the father’s construct of how he should do his tasks as the father of the family.

With the dictates of the family’s circumstances, he strayed away from the convention that the father must pay the bills and opted to run away from them by moving out of the place they live in. Furthermore, the members of the family decided to move away from each other is another manifestation of the individuals doing away with conventions. Social convention dictates that families must stay together and live their lives entangled with the rest of the members. This was not the case with the Walls. As their father died, the individuals who were left behind opted to separate and live their own lives.

This is another manifestation of the individuals constructing their own biographies rather than following convention in the post traditional family setting. In sum, the Walls family is a clear cut example of what a post traditional family looks like. The way the family adapted to the many changes and also challenges to their lives is very much different from what conventions, customs and traditions would dictate. Reference: Carol Smart, Bren Neale and Amanda Wade, ‘“Doing’ Post-Divorce Childhood,” from The Changing Experience of Childhood: Families and Divorce. 0 2001 Reprinted with permission of Polity Press.

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