The Depiction of Poverty and Examples of It in Glass Castle

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In her memoir, “The Glass Castle,” Jeannette Walls depicts the complexities of growing up in poverty. As a result of her dysfunctional parents, Jeannette and her three siblings grow up in an unconventional manner. They constantly move from town to town because their father, Rex, cannot keep a steady job and their mother, Rosemary, is an “excitement addict.” As a result of their constant moving and having little to no money, the Walls children have no structure or strong support system growing up. Through her memoir, The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls describes that generational poverty is so difficult to escape due to the rootlessness and lack of support system found within a schooling system.

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Throughout their childhood, the Walls children moved many times. This caused a multitude of problems. For one, they never stayed in one place long enough to develop relationships with other children, or even get to know many other children. But the most detrimental problem for the Walls children, was that they were never given the opportunity to attend one school long enough to receive an adequate education.

Attending school and receiving an education is not only important to learn basic subjects, it is important for children to have an easily accessible external community. This external community includes teachers, administrators, and peers that form a child’s support system outside of their immediate family. The support system created in the school helps that child through school and classes, and will help to guide them through times of hardships they may experience at home.

When the support system in a child’s home is lacking, the school in which they attend should be able to pick up the slack. For the Walls children, this is never the case. Rex and Rosemary Walls constantly move their family from one town to the next. From Tucson to Blythe to Battle Mountain To Welch, the Walls children never attend the same school for more than eight years. This never gives them the opportunity to develop long-lasting friendships or relationships with teachers who may have helped them escape their own childhood. These relationships are sources for a child to receive emotional support when their parents cannot provide that for them. Rex and Rosemary, though consistently present in their child’s lives, neglect their children's emotional and, at times, physical needs. For example, Brian is molested by his grandmother while his parents are away and when Rex and Rosemary return, Brian explains what happened. But Rex manages to ignore the fact that his son was molested and focuses on how Brian was disrespectful to his grandmother and needs to change his behavior (Walls 147). This neglect continues on a physical level when Lori’s eyesight becomes so bad that her school sent a note home stating that she needed classes (96).

For the Walls children, their problem with education and attending a school was that the rootlessness of their parents never permitted them to enroll in a school for an extended amount of time. But for some children living in poverty, their problems concerning school and education may be different. Although not all impoverished children and families are rootless, there is still a possibility they will have a negative experience with their schooling system.

The main key to escaping poverty is education. But the problem for a child living in poverty is odds are their family cannot afford a private school or a prestigious college. As a result, that child living in poverty may settle for a below average school they are required to go to due to where they live. In some cases, public schools’ budgets do not meet the needs of the students and, therefore, impoverished children attend schools with lower-quality education, under-qualified teachers, and over-crowded classrooms. Then, somewhere along the way, they may drop out to get a job to help pay bills. The major problem with this is that they will lack knowledge and skills they need to further their education or career.

Support systems for impoverished children are not only about meeting their emotional and physical needs, it is also a place the child can go to receive the knowledge that they may not be able to receive at home. Along with a supportive schooling system comes future planning assistance. How does someone know how to apply for college if their parents never did? Most likely, they will not know unless the teacher and administrators at their school educate them on the college application process. But if that person drops out of school to get a low-paying job to help pay bills, they never receive the opportunity to learn about all that a college education could offer. Without the proper knowledge on the subject, those who are impoverished may believe the idea of college or any further education is too far out of reach. But with the help of the school, further education can be made possible without spending thousands upon thousands of dollars and spiraling even deeper into poverty.

For Lori Jeannette, Brian and Maureen, the basic needs acquired either from a stable home life or a consistent school, were never met. Rex and Rosemary insisted on moving their family from place to place throughout the years for their selfish desires which resulted in their children, more specifically the three oldest children, never receiving a proper education or external community. Even though the Walls parents were educated themselves and wanted their children to have an education, they never responsibly helped their children to receive a proper education. Throughout the book, Rex and Rosemary display their intelligence but prove again and again to use it in a negative way in regards to their children. For example, when Jeannette needs help with her math homework, instead of letting her do it the way the teacher wanted it to be done, Rex tells her to do it in binary numbers instead of arabic numbers. This leads to Jeannette getting in trouble by her teacher at school (58).

Through her memoir, “The Glass Castle,” Jeannette walls explains the difficulties of growing up in poverty and in an unstable home. Due to the rootlessness lifestyle of Rex and Rosemary, their children suffer in more areas than just education. They lack a support system at home, and because they never attend one school of very long, they lack a support system there as well.

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