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Depiction of a Childhood Trauma in "The Glass Castle" by Jeannette Walls

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The neglect of a child is the failure of a parent or caregiver to provide necessary to their dependent under eighteen years of age. Failure to supply the necessary food, clothing, shelter, and most importantly, love and attention to a child can put their physical, mental or emotional condition in danger of becoming impaired. As a result of this, the child typically will have low self-esteem and difficulty surviving as an adult. Neglectful parents are frequently abusers of drugs or alcohol and lead a disorganized, chaotic and irresponsible home life.

All of these factors took a toll on Jeanette Walls, author of The Glass Castle (later turned into a movie). The author experienced a childhood trauma in her younger years. Aftermath of childhood trauma varies on the person who experienced the pain, all people handling experiences in different ways.

The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls, is an inside look on Walls’s early life and the struggles her and her siblings faced while growing up in the presence of an unstable mother and an alcoholic father. Although it is apparent that Walls expresses an irresistible love for her parents, signs of abuse and neglect are completely and utterly obvious. As Walls matures throughout the book, the halo hovering above her parent’s head begins to fade, beginning to realize their lifestyle is short of being normal or healthy. What was once everyday life to her, began affecting more than just her physical appearance, it affected her in a psychological way. Jeanette, herself, is a living proof of what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. Throughout the book she shows the world how an impoverished, neglected girl grows into a successful author and wife, showing the world that no matter what situation you come from, ultimate success is entirely possible. Walls wrote this book to conquer a more personal issue: facing her past in hopes to move on from depressing feelings originating from childhood trauma.

In the movie, a scene depicts a time in her childhood when she fell out of her parents’ moving car while they were leaving town. Rex Walls, her father, had a beer bottle in one hand and a cigarette in the other, obviously paying no attention, taking a sharp turn forcing the back door of their beat up and packed full car wide open. Jeannette rolled out and onto the roadside. Her father kept driving and she was left to wonder if he would ever come back for her, alone of the side of the road for hours. This scenario was one of the many times Jeanette was neglected and forgotten during her childhood. There she sat on the curb, wondering if it was better this way, hoping that something other than lack of nurture and care was keeping her father from stopping the car and immediately turning around for her rescue. This constant internal battle of abandonment and forgiveness took a toll on Walls emotions, keeping these trust issues in her back pocket even as she aged older.

Another example is when Jeannette was only three years old, she was cooking hot dogs by herself unsupervised and was burned when her dress caught on fire. Not only should her mother have been watching her, but even after Jeannette came back, or more fittingly, escaped from the hospital (earlier than expected after her father caused a scene), her mother continued to allow her to cook by herself. This is an obvious sign of a parent who is being neglectful of her child. This is why Jeanette matured so quickly and was able to fend for herself at a young age, as she started doing things on her own much earlier than a child in a traditional family might.

Her father had a continuing problem with alcohol, going to church and other public functions drunk. This not only affected Jeanette, but the whole family by frequently forcing them to pick up and move the next day when he caused trouble in the area they lived in. He never kept a job for long, which made it hard for the family to eat. This kind of irresponsible behavior frequently deprived the children of food on their plate and confused also made it hard for them to make friends since they were constantly moving, never allowing them to make true connection to anyone outside their family.

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Depiction of a Childhood Trauma in “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls. (2021, March 18). GradesFixer. Retrieved September 29, 2022, from
“Depiction of a Childhood Trauma in “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls.” GradesFixer, 18 Mar. 2021,
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