At this point, I am just about half way through “The Glass Castle” Memoir of Jeanette Walls. As Jeanette Walls is going through her childhood of all the crazy experiences and memories shes’s accumulated throughout, I’ve come across some archetypal symbols that contribute to making the memoir more enjoyable and meaningful for readers like me!
In my eyes, all the characters in this story so far tend to fall under an archetype. Especially Mr. Walls. Now at first, if you asked me “Do any of the characters in your book remind you of any archetypal characters?”, I would have immediately put Rex Walls and Trickster in the same sentence. Disobedient, amusing and funny is the persona given off by Rex Walls. In one of the most serious situations after Jeanette burnt herself she told us readers: “Dad appeared alone in the doorway of my room. He told me we were going to check out, Rex Walls–style.”(Walls 9) At this point I thought to myself, breaking the rules of the hospital to prove what to his daughter? Not much but to abide by “doing what is fun or what feels good rather than what is right”(Caitlin 1). He continuously displays the trickster type through these impulses of what is called chaos to everyone surrounding but himself and the people he includes, in this case, Jeanette.
That is only if you asked me in the beginning. Reaching the middle of the Memoir I’ve come to a deeper realization. On the exterior Rex Walls seems to be a fun and frivolous father but on the interior I see him to be a Villain archetype. You might be thinking how is that possible? He only proves as the trickster. But as I investigated deeper I stumbled upon the many times he demonstrated a detriment to his children’s lives. He displayed all the bad father qualities such as, not caring for his children’s needs, using profanity and not being able to support them. Jeanette reminisces: “Others were rootless, like us- just passing through”(Wells 12). Jeanette and the rest of her siblings were always “just passing by” because of her father and mother. They were on the run more than less and did not have enough wealth to settle down. He did not show indications of a plan to put his children in school, allow them to have friends and make money through the law but to “find gold”(Wells 14) which seemed like a fantasy implanted in their minds by Rex for the failure of being the support of his children.
Along with archetypal characters there are also a few archetypal symbols with tons of meaning to the story. Fire. The element that is both good and bad. We’ve all sat by a fire and roasted marshmallows on a cold night. Felt the heat produced by its raging flames and somewhat felt thankful to have its presence hugging you with it’s warmth- that’s if you didn’t get too close! Fire was presented many times in the first half of the story. In a way, I feel like Jeanette felt the same about fire; good and bad. It seems to symbolize that with the pain of being burnt by fire, the strength comes with being burnt. Kelly Clarkson once sang the line “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. It relates to that concept. The fire is constantly following Jeanette wherever she goes. She sort of seems intrigued by it when she says: “…but what I did know was that I lived in a world that at any moment could erupt into fire. It was the sort of knowledge that kept you on your toes”(Wells 21). She is “kept on her toes” by the idea of fire and amazed that it was something frequent in her world. Jeanette has faced the fire multiple times and has gotten back up from it even better than before. Her dad can see this in her as well, “She already fought the fire once and won”(Wells 9). Jeanette goes through life with her parents and many battles are tossed at her as a child. Like the battle of fire, she continues to grow from it and become a stronger character. Strong enough to be in an apartment with “bronze and silver vases… Georgian maps , Persian rugs, and the overstuffed leather armchair….”(Walls 3). Showing how far she reached in her life potentially by the fire that hurt her and made her powerful.
Further on in the book I hope that her journey of heroism and adventure is continued to be represented. Since I am only half way through we have not hit a real climax to what has occurred in her life but there are many leads to prove she has done something great like the description of her apartment in the beginning which indicates wealth and that she is living well with a husband as well or that there is a clear issue with Rex Wells and his parents in his childhood that we are yet to find out.
Shmoop Editorial Team. “The Glass Castle What’s Up With the Title?” Shmoop. Shmoop University, 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 12 July 2017.
The Glass Castle Symbols from LitCharts | The creators of SparkNotes.” LitCharts. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 July 2017.
“What are the Different Characteristics of the Trickster Archetype in Literature?” What are the Different Characteristics of the Trickster Archetype in Literature? | YoExpert Q&A. N/A, n.d. Web. 12 July 2017.