The memoir is a true reflection of Jeannette Walls’ struggles to achieve a remarkable life despite the childhood challenges. A lot of drawbacks are witnessed in the life of a young Jeannette. Rex and Rose Mary gave parenting a unique approach. While making life lenient and more adventurous, these marvelous parents exposes their four children namely, Jeannette, Lori, Brian and Lilly Ruth to extreme hardship and life discomforts. This aspect is evident in the manner he made the family be nomadic. For example, he drives the family into the desert and deliberately stops and suggests they sleep under the sky without pillows. This paper analyses the approach Rex and Rose gave to parenting and how their philosophy impacted on them and their children.
Modern families learn great lessons from this memoir. Rex and Rose reveals a unique approach to parenting and family policies. The philosophy of nonconformity. This philosophy refer to an aspect of deviation from a specification, an expectation or a standard. The Walls family failed to conform to the norms of the society. This philosophy impacted both positively and negatively in this family. A parent will borrow a lot of lessons from the lifestyle of Rex and Rose walls towards their personal life and that of their children. Despite the fact that this philosophy attributes to the emergence of a perfect family at the end, a point should be taken on the vices that associated to its uniqueness to that effect.
Throughout the memoir, we clearly notice various scenarios of nonconformity in the life of Rex, Rose and their family. In the hospital Rex and his wife are not pleased and oppose the move by the nurses to give Jeannette a chewing gum. Rex argues that Jeannette will realize the sweetness of various comforts yet she will not be able to find them in outside life. The belief in witch doctors to cure diseases is also evident when Lori was stung by a scorpion. They preferred treatments from witch doctors as compared to hospitals. This is a unique attribute to life and its environment. Nonconformity impacted negatively on Rex. The father of four was unable to take orders from authority. Rex puts his family to a mobile lifestyle. The family moves from place to place escaping from authorities. Settling in various environments the moment Rex broke a law depicted the harm associated with nonconformity. Actually, moving in and out of places was due to the fear associated with losing property when caught by the law enforcers.
It is relevant also to mention Jeannette’s father professional life with his bosses. He was fired in all the employment scenarios mentioned in the memoir. An evident example occurs when the casino owners in Las Vegas realized his cheating habit at the blackjack table. Every time rex was fired, the family had to go through a lot of domestic challenges. Sometimes feeding the family was a problem. Further discussion shifts the philosophy to the structural outlook of the family in terms of housing and general welfare. As a matter of fact a reader could anticipate a better living for the couple and their children. Money earned from the distinct jobs he took in various towns and his earning from gambling was enough to afford the family a good apartment and an amicable welfare. This is not the case. Instead Rex spends a bigger part of his income in drinking. Also, Lori alludes that they suffered yet her mother, had a large tract of land with a value of one million dollars when sold. This concept brings us to an ironical conclusion. Money seems to mean little to Rex and Rose Walls in making life sentiments better. This mentality and approach to family welfare made the children suffer from hunger and inconsistent access to education facilities. In several occasions, the children survived on garbage remains. The freedom of associating with friends went down since the people looked down upon the children in various social setups. The family was also branded as poor, this is evident from the perception of the lady who drove them home when their vehicle broke down.
Moreover, there is a point to reckon on the approach Rose gave to jobs and her lifestyle at large. Rose is too conservative in what she does even in extreme situations of family financial instability. Being an artist by profession, she chooses not to do other jobs. In as much as she teaches on few occasions after being compelled by the family demand for money, she still fails to appreciate the need to diversify her skills to fit in the current job market. Her actions not only derail the family development but also portrays her as a lazy mother who cannot sacrifice for the family. An attribute that makes her different from her mother, Smith, who lived in Phoenix and secured wealth from her hard work as a teacher.
Jeannette Walls get burnt while cooking hot dogs at the age of three. This situation is not only ridiculous but raises questions on the responsibility and level of care exhibited by the parents. Compelling a child of such a tender age to provide for her meals depicts recklessness and no sense of love and care. An extension of the debate goes to the life of Lilly Maureen the last of the siblings. She faces a lot of trauma in her early childhood and ends up finding happiness at friends’ houses. This raises critics from neighbors on the approach Rex and Rose used in bringing up their children. It is saddening to note that in as much as the lifestyle of the parents impacted positively on the other children in the long run, Maureen was adversely affected and her future become unpredictable. She served a term in jail after stabbing her own mother Rose and eventually separated herself from the rest of the family relocating to California. This is an evidence of a poor upbringing.
Rex and Rose fails to rebuke certain grave vices due to their ignorant attitude to life skills. The tendency of molesting Brian done by Erma walls, Rex’s mother, prompts Jeannette to have a feeling that her father was a victim of the same situation. Brian was molested by her grandmother and later Uncle Stanley harassed Jeannette sexually. This kind of vices are deemed immoral by the societal norms yet they are assumed by Rex and Rose since they need support from the parties involved in the vices. I have to emphasize that Rex’s move to using Jeannette as a bait to get money from Robbie at the bar proved his recklessness and supportive nature to child abuse.
Finally, this philosophy has also set a drawback in the welfare of the family. Rex fails to quit drinking. Even in his death bed, he requests his daughter Jeannette to visit but insists on her to carry vodka with her. I am not condemning alcohol as a negative element in the lifestyle of people but emphasizes that serious addiction is accompanied with ranging negative effects. Domestic violence noticed throughout the marriage life of Rex and Rose resulted from Rex’s drinking habits. This aspect of drinking drained substantial family funds that could however been used to redeem the family welfare. Even after his daughter Jeannette requests him to stop drinking as a birthday gift offer to her, Rex is tied down to this challenge. He is a nonconformist!
On the other hand, this philosophy influenced a brighter future to the Walls’ family. Let us narrow down to the positive implications of the nonconformist lifestyle of Rex and Rose on their own welfare and the overall well-being of their children. A range of debatable scenarios ascertains the philosophy used in bringing up the family as an outstanding and adoptable by the modern families. I start by reflecting back at the Walls’ nomadic life. Rex keeps on relocating the family from place to place. We see the family live in the desert, in Phoenix, in Welch and later in New York. In as much as these movement was in order to avoid the wrath of the authorities, Jeannette alludes that she and other siblings cherished adventurous life. Actually, living in different areas exposed the children to different life challenges in ranging backgrounds. The children are able to diversify on ways to survive various challenges in their life. We notice a great impact of this exposure as it minimized the feeling of an imperfect family that could have otherwise reflected badly on the children’s growth. It is vivid that when the nomadic life stopped in Welch, the children had to part ways with the parents so as to appreciate their immediate life pattern. This aspect also enabled the children to find jobs and therefore changing the face of their lives and that of their parents. The children used their previous challenges as a stepping stone to a better future. They showed more vigilance, dedication and strength towards their life drawbacks unlike their parents Rex and Rose.
The philosophy of nonconformity was just great for this family. The Joshua tree in the desert was so symbolic in the life of Jeannette. Rose prevents Jeannette from interfering with Joshua tree that grew sideways due to the forces of the blowing wind. This foreshadows the struggles that Jeannette went through as a nonconformist. We take a look at the unique relationship Jeannette had with the black people. She befriends Dinitia despite the prejudice the black people faced. Erma and Stanley rebukes her good attitude towards the black people. This aspect portrays the nonconformity idea as good enough to unite people of different backgrounds.
A number of instances shows difficulties faced by the children in their education. In Welch Elementary School for example, Jeannette and her brother Brian are bullied by their classmates. This comes alongside the rejection they face when they were put in the same class with children with disabilities since their accent was strange. Despite all these challenges, Jeannette, and her siblings break all the odds and achieves their academic goals and later their dreams. In other words, literacy for the people is connected to the economics of literacy. To them life was normal in every tempting and difficult situation. The aspect of achieving a target amidst various impending challenges is important to be emulated by the modern families. The glass castle was never built. It remained as an illusion in the minds of the children. Rex was always a protagonist and at the same time an antagonist in the same story. He gave promises that kept the family hopes alive but never fulfilled any of them. Relationships and social support from the parents impacts directly on the growth of the children. It becomes more a challenge where poverty influences the parenting attitude. (Green and Carrie and Carol 97).
Jeannette confirms that when she thought of writing, what first came to her mind was her mother. (Walls 204). She remembers her unique conservative and self-centered character about life. Never aping others. Rose Mary stands out as the main inspiration to Jeannette’s writing career and love for journalism. Her mother encourages her to avoid shame and take things positively the way they are, the beauty of nature. Jeannette begins working for the school newspaper, The Maroon Wave in her seventh grade. She discovers her potential without worrying about people teasing her on her background. She eventually becomes a journalist and share her experiences with the rest of the world. This memoir is indeed a reflection of Jeannette’s unwavering faith in achieving what she deserve. She proves the point about finding quality in the lowly ranked. She also affirms that poverty is not a hindrance to education and possession of quality virtues in life.
Finally, it is important to note that Rex’s sense of humor and approach to challenges was amicable. In the desert, he trains Jeannette how to swim in the in the sulfur spring by literally forcing her to sink. He tells her daughter that if she does not want to sink then she should be able to figure out how to swim. Rex and Rose adopted this approach of parenting with anticipated fruits. They refused to coddle their children and presented them with challenges that they had to handle. This analogy led to a happy ending when their children excelled and achieved best for themselves. They learned how to handle life-threatening problems and unites together as a family.
Following this discussion, I boldly agree to the philosophy of nonconformist that Rex and Rose used as a perfect approach to parenting. This is in relation to how Liz Murray engages us in her tale of how neglected children can overcome all the life obstacles to achieve desired objectives (Murray 8). This philosophy if well adopted can help in raising a more responsible children who are able to face all life challenges and achieve their various dreams. As a matter of fact, the main aim of good parenting is to raise children who can survive on their own independent of their parents. The Walls family is a successful example to that effect.
Supplementary, while abiding to their philosophy of parenting, Rex and Rose Mary were both demanding and responsive. This analogy insinuates that Jeannette’s parents were authoritative. Authoritative parents controls their children but are never restrictive (Aunola and Håkan and Jari-Erik 206-207). These authors further allude that parenting in such a scenario involves child-centeredness. The parents accept and trust the children. The parents further inject their interest and active participation in the life of the children through a high level of open communication. Rex and rose succeeds in their parenting obligation.
Aunola, Kaisa, Håkan Stattin, and Jari-Erik Nurmi. “Parenting styles and adolescents’ achievement strategies.” Journal of adolescence 23.2 (2000): 205-222.
Green, Beth L., Carrie Furrer, and Carol McAllister. “How do relationships support parenting? Effects of attachment style and social support on parenting behavior in an at‐risk population.” American Journal of Community Psychology 40.1-2 (2007): 96-108.
Murray, Liz. Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard. [Bridgewater, NJ], Distributed By Paw Prints/Baker & Taylor, 2011.
Walls, Jeannette. The glass castle: A memoir. Simon and Schuster, 2017.