The Glass Castle: Essay Q&A
What are the differences and similarities between the beginning and ending of the novel?
Both the beginning and ending take place in the month of December, although the year is not specified by the author. We do know that the time expanse for the whole story is one year, beginning and ending in December. Unlike the ending, the beginning opens in an atmosphere of fear and dread as the author relates an event that happened a year before in the community. A jet had been seen and heard above the community, which was against their rules. Everyone had been frightened. The author further creates suspense with the brief mention of Release, a punishment of some kind. Then we find that Jonas, the main character, is filled with apprehension at the soon-to-take-place Ceremony of Twelve. This is how the novel begins: with rules, rituals, and feelings of dread.
Several characters are present at the very beginning. We are introduced to Jonas’s family: Mother, Father, his sister Lily, and his friend Asher. The characters are created to be almost lifeless, devoid of any expression of true feelings or emotion. They are robot-like in their actions and words.
The language the author uses reflects the atmosphere of fear and dread: verbs such as “trembling, confused, churn, scrambling,” and of course, “released.” The opening line immediately paints the picture for this atmosphere: “It was almost December, and Jonas was beginning to be frightened.”
The ending is rather ambiguous, but it is hopeful and happy with the sounds and sights of music and lights shining in windows, very unlike the beginning of the novel. There is the hope of a baby, of new life, of new beginnings for Jonas and his community. Although Jonas is in a different place, not with his family anymore, the reader senses a feeling of happiness in him.
The only characters at the end of the story are Jonas and Gabriel. Jonas has grown up; his character has changed dramatically since the beginning of the novel.
The language used in the final chapter again reflects the mood and atmosphere of hope and happiness with words like “hope,” “white”, “comfort,” “ warmth,” and “joy.”
Discuss some of the challenges Jonas faces in his maturation.
The author presents several challenges for Jonas throughout the novel: puberty, a stagnant society masked by rigid rules, and the truth about Releasing and his own father. Each of these events changes Jonas dramatically and propels him to leave his home and his whole way of life in the community.
First of all, one might think that puberty’s own challenges are difficult enough in a world where there is emotion and memory and overall freedom within one’s town or community, but Jonas’s world presents such a magnitude of forces beyond his control when he finds himself in the beginning stages of puberty, of growing up, of finding his own identity, that it makes him question even his own parents. But Jonas’s curiosity and overall faith and integrity allow him to find the answers to his questions. For Jonas, his “stirrings” make him feel good, and he doesn’t understand why he must take a pill to mask them. He also does not yet understand that the community has controlled the most vital power within human beings, the power to create life. This is the innocence that the author portrays throughout the novel, and this innocence is one of the things that Jonas questions.
More so than puberty, the Book of Rules and the community’s rigid way of life presents an incredible challenge for Jonas. For example, the community is not allowed to have any books except the Book of Rules. Toward the end of the novel, during his training with The Giver, Jonas becomes extremely frustrated with that way of life because he must return to it in the evening after receiving memories from The Giver. These memories make Jonas further realize just how rigid his world is. He wants to share what he’s learning with his family, but it is against the rules. This exacerbates him to the point of making a plan to leave his home and the community’s way of life with their rules.
The most significant, if not violent, challenge for Jonas is the discovery of the meaning of Release, which involves his father. Jonas watches his father murder a baby by injecting poison into the baby’s forehead. This scene is too much for Jonas, and he doesn’t return home that evening after watching the video in the presence of The Giver. This scene also propels Jonas and The Giver to devise a plan for Jonas to leave the community forever.
Why does The Giver suggest that Jonas watch his father perform the releasing of the twin? The Giver is harsh with Jonas throughout the video, telling Jonas to watch. What is his motive in forcefully suggesting that Jonas watch this horrible scene?
This scene is the climax of the novel and is the catalyst for the change in Jonas. The Giver knows that Jonas is still ignorant of the truth about releasing, and he also realizes that because of Jonas’s questions during his training, a change needs to take place in the community.
In other words, memories must be returned to them, so that they can have control over their own lives again. The Giver uses his own wisdom by helping Jonas, to shock him into realizing what needs to be done, and that sometimes it takes a tragedy to spark a revolution. Thus, he prompts Jonas to watch the scene.
The Giver knows that Jonas is young and strong, and that with his help, they both can return freedom to the community. The Giver also knows that through hardships, people gain strength, so he encourages Jonas to watch the Releasing video.
Jonas’s training involves pain, and The Giver knows that this video will be the most painful of any memory he could transfer to Jonas. It is thus through this painful experience that Jonas can muster the strength he will need to sustain him when The Giver is no longer there and for the rest of the memories that he will need to receive.
What role does The Giver play in the novel, and what effect does it have on Jonas?
The Giver is The Receiver of Memory, the job of the highest honor in the community, so he is well respected. Because he is an elderly man, Jonas looks up to him almost as a father or grandfather. The Giver has some power over the members of the community, such as a deity figure might have over his/her kingdom. These three roles teach Jonas the importance of honesty, strength, and wisdom.
First, The Giver’s respect from members of the community teaches Jonas that it is important to respect someone even when it means going against your own beliefs. For example, The Giver does not agree with the ritual of Releasing, but up to the point when he is training Jonas, he never tried to change the community’s ways. Jonas comes to see that respect is an important part of being a leader in a community.
Second, The Giver and Jonas become very close. The Giver is like a grandfather to Jonas. Because Jonas was not very close to his own father, he begins to look up to The Giver even more. This enables Jonas to gain more confidence in his own ability to make decisions. He gains wisdom through his inner strength to make the decision to leave the community.
Third, The Giver is like a higher power over the community. He protects the members of the community from painful memories. Jonas sees this, and in the end, he himself protects the baby Gabriel during their long journey to Elsewhere.
Describe the Community and Elsewhere. What does each represent?
The Community is home to Jonas. It is where he lives with his family, where he goes to school, where he plays with his friends. In the beginning, his home is familiar and makes him happy. Later on when he begins his training with The Giver, the Community comes to represent loneliness, apathy, and emptiness. It becomes meaningless to Jonas, and he wants to leave. It no longer is a place where he can play with his friends, nor can he share what he is learning in his training with them because it is against the rules. The Community becomes a place where there is no emotion.
Elsewhere is a place of mystery because it is outside the Community. It is also the place where people in the Community are led to believe they go when they are released. It is a place of curiosity, a place of hope for them. Elsewhere represents freedom, memories (Jonas discovers this later when he arrives there), and feelings.
The Community, with all its rules and regulations, represents a place of conformity. Jonas is the only one besides The Giver who realizes this because they are allowed to go outside the Community to receive all the memory of the world. In this way, only through knowing what has happened in the outside world, they know that the Community is bound to the rules.
Elsewhere, with its dream of freedom and mystery, represents a place of non-conformity where people do not have to obey so many rules and regulations. Jonas discovers this when he actually arrives there with Gabriel and sees it for himself. It’s not only a physical realization, but a feeling he gets when he finally makes it to Elsewhere.