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Olivia Hoffberger

AP Lang

Mrs. Hunt

January 27, 2017


Poverty is, unfortunately, the condition in which the majority of the world is in. There is a

possibility that people have made poor decisions and some can be blamed for their hardships, but

there are deeper and more universal causes of poverty that must be examined before assumptions

are made. In the memoir, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, poverty is shown to be a social

issue that can be solved by breaking down the many problems that come out of and create

poverty such as alcoholism, mental health, and abuse.

Alcoholism is a social issue that can create poverty that must be solved for poverty to be

fixed. Alcoholism is an addiction to the consumption of liquor. There are many social issues

outside of The Glass Castle in which alcoholism effects. Traffic accidents, work-related

problems, family problems, and violence can be caused by alcohol abuse. There are many

emotional effects of alcoholism as well as social. Alcohol can cause depression, suicide, and

memory loss. Alcohol can disrupt the balance of chemicals that brains need to function, affecting

our thoughts, actions, feelings, and sometimes, mental health. Anger, aggression, anxiousness

and depression are all emotional responses that alcohol can cause and are proved to be present in

the lives of the Walls family in The Glass Castle. Alcoholism is an extreme problem for

Jeannettes father, Rex Walls. In The Glass Castle, the father would come home in very drunk

states and would smash windows and leave the house exposed to anything, adding to their issue

of poverty. The way in which Rex Walls acts in a drunken state is shown in the quote, he came
home in such a drunken fury that Mom usually hid while we kids tried to calm him down. He

broke windows and smashed dishes and furniture until hed spent all his anger (112). Rex

Walls would come home and ruin items around the house, causing the family to have to spend

more money or leave the house exposed due to holes in the wall or open door where rats and

people could enter. Rex Walls always spends any money he may get his hands on on alcohol.

He spends more than he earns on booze, is a quote from Rexs son, Brian Walls. In the quote,

Brian is saying that all of his fathers money, as well as other members of the family's money,

goes to nothing but alcohol when the money could be used to pay for items necessary for living

such as food and clothing. The family must always flee when Rex Walls gets drunk and claims

the family must do the skedaddle because he believes that somebody is after him and his

family, proving how alcoholism can affect a persons mental state. Alcoholism can also be a

mental illness, and compulsive behavior is the result of alcohol dependency.

Mental health is an issue that contributes to poverty and the Walls family in an extreme

way. In The Glass Castle, the theme of mental illness is explored and suggests that changes in

child-parent relationships occur when children are forced to care for themselves due to their

parents being unable to do so. Mental illness can refer to many conditions such as disorders that

affect mood, thinking, and behavior. Mental illness can also be addictive behaviors such as

alcoholism. The mother in The Glass Castle, Rose-Mary Walls, is highly volatile. Rose-Mary

often acts drastically and has extreme emotions which are the result of possible battles with

bipolar disorder and depression. The mental health issues that Rex and Rose-Mary Walls suffered

had negative effects on their entire family. Rex drank and gambled all of the money that the

family did not have because Rose-Mary would not work due to her bipolar disorder and constant

depression. These issues left the family with no money and also left the children to support
themselves and their siblings. Rummaging through trash cans for food to feed the family was a

necessity of theirs. While Maureen Walls was growing up, she jumped from house to house and

was able to be supported by her friends' families because they felt sympathy for her and because

her family was not able to do so. The loss of affection in Maureens life caused her to snap and

stab her mother, which landed her in a mental hospital in California. The mothers act of

throwing herself out the window in one of the scenes in the book is a strong example of her

bipolar disorder because she was acting out of impulse, as well as her depression, being possibly

perceived as an attempted suicide. Rose-Mary always tries to plead herself to be innocent and

blames Rex for pushing her out of the window when it was evident what happened. The mental

illness and health of the adults in The Glass Castle show that the parents were not able to make a

conscious decision of trying to help themselves and were completely incapable of doing so

because of their craziness. The mental health issues of the parents make them make irrational

decisions such as decisions about their childrens health and dignity.

The sexual and physical abuse, as well as the family dynamics shown in The Glass

Castle, are aspects of poverty that must be solved and that are shown a great deal in the book.

Rose-Mary Walls shows her belief of self-sufficiency when Jeannette tells her about Uncle

Stanley touching her. In response to this news, Rose-Mary claims that she felt sorry for Uncle

Stanley because he had been lonely, rather than making sure her daughter was okay. In the book,

Brian and Jeanette Walls both unfortunately suffered from sexual abuse and harassment at some

point in their childhoods. Their parents were completely unconcerned when they received the

knowledge of the incidents; one night when I was almost ten, I was awakened by someone

running his hands over my private parts. I just want to play a game with you, a mans voice

said, (120) is a quote that shows how neglecting the adults were in the book. Jeannette says this
quote in response to her parents leaving the doors to their house open and unlocked at all times,

allowing whoever wishes to enter. The psychological issues that are brought on by sexual abuse

are usually permanent and cannot be undone. Situations like these make the children in The

Glass Castle believe that sexual, emotional, and physical abuse is okay and also causes them to

be unfamiliar and possibly uncomfortable in life where there is a lack of these abuses.

Poverty is like an octopus; poverty, the main issue, is the head and the aspects of poverty

such as abuse, addiction, and mental health. Poverty is undeniably a social issue, but it can be

dealt with if it is attacked from the right angle. Trying to solve poverty is an almost impossible

task. However, if the smaller issues that make up poverty are dealt with first, then the never-

ending question of poverty could be solved.