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The Ideas of Home in "The Glass Castle", a Memoir by Jeannette Walls

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The Ideas of Home in "The Glass Castle", a Memoir by Jeannette Walls essay
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“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” Maya Angelou said that very famous quote about home. She captured the absolute comfort and safety of a home. The pure essence of a home.

A home is usually seen as the house that you live in permanently. However, many homeless people feel that their home is where their loved ones are. Really, home is where you feel most comfortable and safe at. And that is where the saying, “Home is where the heart is,” comes from.

At the time of home being first used, it meant a piece of land or a settlement. It also, sometimes, meant a village. So, in general, it has always meant a place of residence. Now, if you look up “home” in a dictionary, you still get definitions like “a house” or “a physical place of residence.” But there is also another entry for home now. For example, the Free Dictionary lists two more definitions of home, “a. An environment offering security and happiness. b. A valued place regarded as a refuge or place of origin.” As time has developed, “home” has come to mean more to the heart and less to the wallet, even according to the dictionary.

The Glass Castle, a memoir by Jeannette Walls, explores this idea of home being more of a part of the heart. Growing up, Jeanette never really had a real house to live in. Her family was constantly on the run from debt collectors, so they moved from house to house, town to town. The only substantial thing in Jeannette’s life was her family, and to her, her family was her home. And when she grew up, she realized that home is where you feel happy and safe. As Jeannette said about her sister Maureen, “But I also hoped that Maureen had chosen California because she thought that was her true home, the place where she really belonged, where it was always warm and you could dance in the rain, pick grapes right off the vines, and sleep outside at night under the stars.”(Walls 276)

In the book, Jeannette’s and her mom’s views of home are quite different. At the beginning of the story, we see Jeannette trying to comprehend how her mom, Rose Mary, can make a home in being homeless while she lives in a penthouse on Park Avenue. Later, Jeannette says that Battle Mountain was the only place that she really called her home. She loved it there because she was happiest there. On the other hand, Rose Mary calls the house on Little Hobart Street “home sweet home.”(Walls 150) Rose Mary loved this shabby, broken house, whereas Jeannette and the rest of the family were not so fond of it. Rose Mary felt right at home on Little Hobart Street because she felt comfortable in that run-down home, whereas Jeannette did not, so Jeannette did not truly consider it her home. As seen by Rose Mary and Jeannette, “home” is very different to everyone.

Home is not simply the house, apartment, trailer, or a cardboard box a person lives in. A home doesn’t even have to be the place that a person is currently residing with their family. As the saying goes, “Home is where your heart is.” Home is a place where a person feels safe and happy. Home is a place where a person can really be themselves. Homes are different to everyone. A home truly is a piece of one’s heart. Sadly, not everyone has a home, and as Maya Angelou said, “The ache for home lives in all of us.”

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