This memoir is a recapping of the life of a young girl’s life growing up with two siblings, an alcoholic father, and dysfunctional mother. Jeannette Walls tells her story and shares her emotions that she feels as she lives a tough day-to-day life. Throughout this memoir, The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls wanted to present the message of the necessity of individual drive and self-sufficiency; She demonstrates this message by the use of imagery, tone, and word choice.
The imagery that Jeannette uses throughout her memoir is a key component in getting the message of her story across to the reader. The first passage that shows imagery supporting her message of the story is when Jeannette is talking about Welch High-School and the description of the kids attending it. “Some of the kids looked as poor as me, with home-cut hair and holes in the toes of their shoes. I found it a lot easier to fit in than at Welch Elementary.” (199). This passage gives the reader a picture that they can put in their minds that describe what the Wall’s kids looked like and how they felt. This shows individual drive because each of these poorer kids need to look after themselves due to the lack of money. Jeannette looks for these kids because she knows that she will be able to fit in better with them. Another passage that shows good imagery comes from when Jeannette is writing about how at school when she was in 12th grade she would sneak into the cafeteria and eat the food. “I could sneak into the cafeteria one everyone had left and dig through the garbage pails. I’d find industrial-sized cans of corn that were nearly full and huge containers of cole slaw and tapioca pudding. I no longer had to root through the bathroom wastebaskets for foot, and I hardly ever went hungry again.” (232). This passage shows just how desperate Jeannette was for food and how hard her life must have been. The imagery in this passage can help the reader picture Jeannette a 17-year-old girl digging in the garbage for a little something to eat. This goes to show how self-sufficient Jeannette was towards getting herself food to stay alive.
The different tones that Jeannette uses throughout her memoir help create a mood that sends the message of the importance of individual drive to the readers. The first passage is when Jeannette is explaining how she was driven to find a place where she felt like she belonged. “I wanted to join some club or group or organization where I could I feel I belonged, where people wouldn’t move away if I sat down nest to them.” (203). This passage’s tone is desperate and yearning. Jeannette wants to be accepted so much and have a reassurance that they would not leave. Jeannette did not receive this acceptance in her home but she uses her individual drive to find this place of acceptance. Secondly, another quote that portrays the author’s message was when Jeannette was recalling an incident where she was ‘raped’ when she was 8. A boy had kissed her and told her that she had been ‘raped’ by him. Jeannette had a hunch that it was not a good thing so she took it into her own hands to find out what ‘raped’ meant for she didn’t know what it was before the boy had said it. “At home I looked up the word in the dictionary. Then I looked up the words that explained it, and though I still couldn’t figure it out completely, I knew it wasn’t good.” (87). This quote has a tone of curiosity and determination. Jeannette is intrigued and is resolute in finding out the definition. This shows how self-sufficient Jeannette was for an eight year old to look a word up in the dictionary because she had an idea that it was a bad thing. The tones used in this memoir are a great help in showing the readers the central idea the author had intended the book to show.
The carefully selected words used in Jeannette’s story help the reader feel the same emotion that Jeannette was during specific events. The loaded words are chosen to send Jeannette’s message across of the importance of self-drive and individuality. This quote was stated in the beginning of the story when Jeannette is describing her apartment she worked so hard for in New York City. Growing up so poor, and having no motivation from her parents to do well and go to college, Jeannette worked very hard to do as well as she did and live a well-off life. “There were turn-of-the-century bronze-and-silver vases and old books with worn leather spines that I collected at flea markets. There were Georgian maps I’d framed, the Persian rugs, and the overstuffed arm chair I like to sink into…” (4). This quote uses lots of description words that show a lot of wealth and class within her apartment. These words help paint a picture of the apartment for the reader. This picture is helpful because it shows the extreme contrast between that and her childhood houses. The next passage was written when explaining the frequent fights that occurred in Welch. Jeannette shares about the most memorable fight that she and her siblings had. “Our most spectacular fight, and our most audacious tactical victory…”(165). This quote helps send the message because it shows that the kids were for themselves when it came to brawls and being self-sufficient in surviving them without getting too hurt. Words like ‘audacious’ and ‘tactical’ give the readers the feeling of how risky the fight was and how dangerous they could be. The word choice used in the memoir helps Jeannette portray her message a lot more clearly.
Many times throughout the memoir Jeannette Walls uses imagery, tone, and word-choice to get her message across about the importance of individual drive and self-sufficiency. Whether it was fighting against the neighborhood bullies, stealing food from the cafeteria, or finding the club that would be the most accepting, the literary techniques used are very important towards showing the message to the readers.