The True Meaning of Home in “The Glass Castle”

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Consider the word home. Picture, it: a white picket fence, a nice green lawn, a picturesque little house with four windows and a red door, a cute stone path from the fence to the doormat, a flower bed, a vegetable garden. It’s materialistically perfect and everyone wants it, it’s what everyone strives for – it’s probably one of the only things both the rich, poor, and indifferent can agree on. In fact, Merriam-Webster defines home as one’s place of residence: domicile. In the case of Jeannette Walls her home life has never truly been stable home life throughout the memoir The Glass Castle her and her family have struggled to find a place to call home. Despite all of that throughout the memoir Jeannette has always felt that has long as she had her family with her that wherever they lived would be home to her.

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However, a home is something more special than that. A home is a place, where you feel comfortable. A home is built with a family. A home provides you with the community that will always be there for you Throughout the novel, The Glass Castle the Walls family lives a nomadic lifestyle.

They’ve lived in several places though no one would describe them as the picturess home on the range where the deer and the antelope play; it’s in cheap shacks across the southern and southwestern United States, where termites play in the walls and rats play in the children’s beds. These dwellings are as far from “home sweet home” as a person can get. Most would love to say that the Walls family succeeds in making these hovels into warm homes, but they don’t. For Myers 2 them, home is an idea that exists in the head and the heart, not a place they can find on a map. This is depicted in the quote “Later that night, Dad stopped the car out in the middle of the desert, and we slept under the stars. We had no pillows, but Dad said that was part of his plan. He was teaching us to have good posture. The Indians didn’t use pillows, either, he explained, and look how straight they stood. We did have our scratchy army-surplus blankets, so we spread them out and lay there, looking up at the field of stars. I told Lori how lucky we were to be sleeping out under the sky like Indians. ‘We could live like this forever,’ I said. I think we’re going to,’ she said. (Walls 18) This passage illustrates many important characterizations in the memoir. Rex, is always dreaming up fantastic alternatives to reality to make life more adventurous for his children. Rex communicates serious situations as privileges and excitement. Jeannette is the only one who plays along with these fantasies of her father’s. She believes in every word he says, or at least, at a later age, the intent behind them. Though this is early in the memoir, already Lori shows signs of cynicism. She has already stopped believing fully in her father’s fantasies and instead sees the reality of their circumstances. Many would say that she is already longing for a place where they can settle down in. While in Jeanette’s mind home to her is wherever her family is, she doesn’t care much about the place they choose to live in as long as their altogether.

But is there nothing more to home? Is it just four walls and few plants? Home is so much more than that. Home is family and friends and happiness and love. Home is everything, even if you have nothing. Many would agree with this but when face with the reality of Jeannette’s life living in poverty with an alcoholic father, and an unstable mother. By society standards what Jeannette considers a home isn’t a home at all. It’s a toxic situation that no child should have to be subjected to. In the song “Home” Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros define it in its entirety. “Ah, home / let me go home /Home is wherever I’m with you.” As illuminated in the song, home is intangible. You can’t see it or touch it, but you can feel it. You can feel it when you’re with people you care about and who care about you.

There are some instances in the book where Rosemary and rex do express that they care for their children somewhat. For example, in the beginning of the book where Jeannette is severely burned at three years old trying to cook for herself. This action shows just how uninvolved Rosemary was with first three children even though she did rush Jeannette to the hospital. Rex strong willed and arrogant thinks he himself is more intelligent than a doctor. In the song, it further depicts how one can feel it a sense of home. Home can be everywhere, for some it’s somewhere, but to no one is it nowhere. This is depicted in the song that what one person defines home isn’t always a building and it’s not always in stationary. Home is with people who care about each other and would do anything to make sure their safe as well as happy. Home isn’t a specific place; it’s a montage of favorite places, favorite foods, favorite TV shows, favorite songs, favorite books, favorite people—it’s the sum of everything that makes you feel safe, maybe even infinite. The Walls Family does find a community of sorts where they fit in, “It became clear they’d stumbled on an entire community of people like themselves, people who lived unruly lives battling authority and who liked it that way. After all those years of roaming, they’d found home.” (Walls Ch.8 para 6) The entire family doesn’t feel accepted into the new community as the children especially Jeannette are ostracized and bullied every day at school because, they aren’t from Welch West Virginia. Jeannette arrives for her first day in an old coat with the buttons torn off, and the other kids whisper about her at recess. Her classes are filled with rote memorization of West Virginia’s counties and videos of the high school’s football games. These examples are meant to show not just the abysmal academics but also the close-minded attitude of Welch’s inhabitants. Yet even in Welch the Walls are considered poor, as the teasing Jeannette for her clothes shows. Finding a community helps make a place a home, even if what we’re talking about is a community of people who seem crazy to most society.

The Walls family constantly on the run from bill collectors or minor run-ins with the law, Jeannette’s family finds shelter in houses and towns across the country, while Jeannette continues to seek the one place where she can feel most “at home.” In the memoir, this search mirrors Jeannette’s process of growing up: Jeannette idealizes her grandmother’s house in Phoenix, as well as her father’s plans for the Glass Castle. Yet part of her process of maturing Myers 4 involves understanding that a home is not an ideal. It is something she must work to forge rather than relying on romantic models. It is something she must help to build herself.

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The True Meaning of Home in "The Glass Castle". (2022, Sep 29). Retrieved November 26, 2022 , from
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