The Glass Castle: Theme Analysis

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The Daughter’s Relationship With Her Parents
As the author and first-person narrator, Jeannette controls this recounting of her version of her life and one may view this work as a form of empowerment. This is her story and her version of how her parents behaved and, therefore, her perspective dominates the narrative and the thematic strands.
Her view of her parents permeates each tale she recounts and there is an alternating portrayal of how she both loves and despairs of her parents. She refuses to condemn them outright, but at the same time she also reveals condemning details of their neglect of their children. In this light, Jeannette the narrator and author appears to be caught up in a complex relationship with her mother and father long after she has achieved independence and also since her father died.
Laissez-faire Culture
Both Jeannette’s mother and father exhibit the behavior of adults who refuse to conform and also avoid offering forms of control. Instead, they are described as preferring to let their children learn from mistakes, however dangerous this is on occasions. There is also a strong suggestion that the parents were childlike and had little care for responsibility.
Depending on one’s perspective, their treatment of their growing children may be seen as entirely neglectful or, and as Jeannette appears to believe, this neglect was tempered by a care that was shaded by a laissez-faire attitude (which depends on little involvement or interference). Her parents’ preference for counter-culture influenced the way they treated their children, and this is seen to both allow their children to expand in terms of the way they thought and studied, but also meant that they were always on the margins of mainstream society.
Poverty and Perseverance
This autobiography not only highlights the moral debates over whether Jeannette’s parents were good, bad or indifferent, but also depends on the traditional story of the American Dream for its popularity with the reading public. This is drawn upon in Jeannette’s narrative of personal achievement, in terms of wealth and fame, and also in the wider story of how she and her siblings escaped from the poverty they had been raised in by sheer determination. It is only through hard work that Jeannette, Lori and Brian are reincarnated in New York and because of this they represent the ideal embedded in the American Dream and in the story of The Wizard of Oz.

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