“The Glass Castle,” which is written by Jeannette Walls, talks about various experiences in the Walls’ family. From a three-year old girl being burned while cooking hot-dogs in the beginning of the book, to an adult having a good job and getting married at the end. Jeannette Walls has expressed all her feelings and opinions about, not only the effects of the living conditions during her childhood to her thoughts in her life, but also the change of her views about her parents during that period. “The Glass Castle” gives an opportunity for me to analyze the relationship between Jeannette Walls and Rex Walls, the father of Jeannette.
In order to understand the themes of the story, I have observed Rex Walls’ characteristics and the worldviews that he holds in the story. It is interesting to find that although Rex is a bad and irresponsible father who has done many things, which really hurts his children and causes them serious damage, Jeannette still serves him as her dad as opposed to her siblings. This is because she knows that Rex is always the one who supports her, loves her, and cares about her all the time.
After closely examining Rex Walls’ character, one can see the appearance of the glass castle, which helps to illuminate that he is a genius and an intelligent person who Jeannette has never seen, and has a great potential of accomplishing his dreams. According to “The Glass Castle,” Jeannette Walls says, "All of Dad's engineering skills and mathematical genius were coming together in one special project: a great big house he was going to build for us in the desert. It would have a glass ceiling and thick walls and even a glass staircase. The Glass Castle would have solar cells on the top that would catch the sun's rays and convert them into electricity for heating and cooling and running all the appliances. It would even have its own water-purification system....He carried around the blueprints for the Glass Castle wherever we went, and sometimes he'd pull them out and let us work on the design for our rooms" (Walls 25). Since technology at that time is not well-developed, thinking of using solar cells in daily life is really unique but clever. Moreover, the Glass Castle also represents Rex's hope that he can provide a castle for his family and please his children. Although the physical structure is not erected, it also proves that Rex actually cares of his children. The symbol represented in the “Glass Castle” remains with Jeannette during her childhood. It helps her to believe that her father will do what he promises. The “glass castle” in the story signifies that Rex is good at physical technology, and it represents Rex’s dream of providing his family with the best living conditions.
Not only the appearance of glass castle that helps the readers to identify Rex’s qualities and characteristics, but also the appearance of alcohol that also reflects Rex’s character as a self-centered person. From the story, we can find that Rex has been suffering from alcoholism, and Jeannette’s mother says, “Dad is never the same after Charlene died. He started having dark moods, staying out late and coming home drunk, and losing jobs” (Walls 28). Many people/readers may feel sorry for Rex, but I would like to say that these actions have totally reflected that he is a self-centered person. As the leader of the family, even if you really feel bad about the death of a daughter, you still have a responsibility of encouraging and supporting your family. However, we discover that Rex does support or encourage Rosemary. Instead, he uses staying out and drinking in the bar as his excuse to evade the problem and difficulty. Therefore, from the appearance of alcohol, we not only can find him alcoholism, but also discover his self-centered characteristic and the weakness of giving up easily when facing problems.
Although Rex appears to be a bad father, the appearance of “Mountain Goat” has helped me in discovering that Rex loves Jeannette so much. Jeannette explains why Rex called her “Mountain Goat” and says, “because I never fell down when we were climbing mountains—sure –footed as a mountain goat, he’d always say” (Walls 36). It is interesting to find that Jeannette is the only one who is given a nickname by Rex in Walls’s family, and the nickname has been used many times in “The Glass Castle.” It is clear that there is a special relationship between Rex and Jeannette than between Rex and other siblings. One can conclude that Jeannette loves Rex more than the other siblings in the story do. This is because Jeannette is the only person who supports and believes in him in completing the plan of the glass castle. Although “Mountain Goat” is only a nickname, which seems to be normal to the readers, it symbolizes that Rex does not think that he is both a bad and drunk father. In the story, Rex spends most of his life caring for Jeannette.
Although Jeannette’s childhood is very tough and the relationship between her and Rex becomes worse towards the end of the story, Jeannette remains important to Rex. This is because Rex teaches Jeannette many things such as binary numbers, which she would not have learnt in school. Moreover, his special teaching method has also made Jeannette to become more independent. I hope that people who have not read the book will be able to identify more characters about Rex while reading the book. In my opinion, the best character in the story is Rex. I am sure you will learn a lot by observing him.