Monday, June 7, 2010

Themes & Motifs

Jeannette Walls’ gift for her remarkable ability to recall her story in such detail, leaves the audience wanting more. However, it’s her overall purpose and style with which she formulates these haunting memories into words that demands the reader’s attention. Walls’ purpose is arguable between many points, but it can be summarized into a simple response; to believe and prove with her story that, “everyone interesting has a past.” As the memoir progresses, the reader witnesses more and more of the Walls’ parents mistakes. Some worse than others, Rex and Rose Mary’s parenting comes flawed beyond recognition. Yet, the reoccurring theme throughout is their children’s insurmountable ability to forgive. The children are forced to grow up at such early ages, because they must learn to take care of themselves, that they experience a loss of innocence. They become adults before their own parents do. Although their forgiveness is true and unchanging, it does not mean it came easily to those who asked for it. After years of living with the horrid things they went through to survive their family’s so called “adventures,” they grow a hard exterior. Along with this new development of their characters, their father creates a new tactic, one of Jeannette’s motifs in the novel, guilt. “Have I ever let you down?” he will ask, and every time his children--more specifically Jeannette--will bite their tongues and concede to his will, whether that be for liquor money or other (page 210). With this simple question he knowingly implies that his beloved kids have lost faith in their dad. Obviously, his kids lose most of their sympathy for him and become immune to his advances, but Jeannette has the most trouble turning her back on him. They had always had a very tight bond growing up, and this never escapes his memory. He uses this attachment to his advantage, and because of his exploitation of her soft spot for him she’s often left feeling, “used” (page 210). From early on Walls establishes her family’s complex relationship, and introduces major themes such as forgiveness, and most importantly, lost dreams. This theme is present in the title itself and represents the promise her father made to his family of a wonderful glass castle that he would build for them to live in. Her father was a dreamer, and they lived off of his dreams for a better life in their fantasy home, though it is never achieved.

1 comment:

  1. Noticing that two of the main themes are forgiveness and guilt, I believe that they run hand in hand throughout the novel. As you mentioned, forgiveness did not come easy for the Walls children, yet they had to succumb to it in order to move forward with hope for a better life. Through all of the forgiveness Jeannette lends her father, he discovers that he can use her for reasons that benefit himself. As Jeannette forgives her father for stealing, drinking, and lying, he simultaneously makes her feel guilt for his personal failures.