When examining “The Glass Castle” from an archetypal lens, it carries a variety of different archetypal characters and their journeys throughout the novel.
To start off, the main character of the story is the author, Jeannette Walls. She falls under the heroic archetypal type, she resembles this because she is forgiving, generous, brave, smart, and independent. Although the protagonist was conveyed as a child in the first half of the book, the young age does not define her maturity. She lives in a household where her parents give her very little support at a young age. Throughout the novel, the main character has challenged with many obstacles throughout her life, however, she overcame these challenges by staying true to herself and brave which makes her a hero. An example of a heroic statement which was shown by the protagonist was when she was about four years old and she got caught in a fire for the second time. The protagonist later then states after the incident: “I wondered if the fire had been out to get me. I wondered if all fire was related… like the fire that had burned me that day while I cooked hot dogs… I didn’t have the answers to those questions, but what I did know was that I lived in a world that at any moment could erupt into a fire. It was the sort of knowledge that kept you on your toes” (Walls 45). Considering the fact that she was only four years old when this incident happened, this statement alone shows how the protagonist resembles a heroic archetype who is willing to carry on and to never give up. I certainly doubt that most kids at this young age would turn this incident into a life evaluation.
Also, another example of a heroic act that is shown by the protagonist would be when the Walls family moves to Welch, “on Jeannette’s first day of school, she gets attacked and bullied by Dinitia and some of her other classmates” (Walls 139). After what happened, she doesn’t even hold a grudge towards her bullies, she always stays positive despite her hardships. She forgives them easily because of how much a kind-hearted person she is. Throughout the protagonist’s circumstances, it allows readers to know her desperate situation of life, which makes her a great candidate for a heroic archetype. Furthermore, the protagonist in this story has similar traits to the famous leading character from the Hunger Games. Katniss Everdeen is a young independent girl whose days were difficult and trying to keep her family alive, until at the age of 16, she volunteered for a life and death adventure and performed the responsibilities of being a daughter and a sister (Hunger Games Wiki). Jeannette Walls and Katniss Everdeen has a lot in common in a way that they started off small, yet later on, their journeys have changed drastically that goes from innocence to experience. The two leading characters both experienced poverty and they continually fight for survival and overcoming challenges that were in their ways. Jeannette Walls is constantly fighting the struggles and dealing with it knowing the situation that her family is in: “We liked our boxes. They made going to bed seem like adventure”(Walls 68). Jeannette knowing that her family is in a bad state, she accepts it and tries to make the situation in the best way possible when she states that “bed seem like adventure”(Walls 68). Again, this shows Jeannette’s power as an archetypal hero that she can handle the tough state she’s in and turn it into an adventure.
Furthermore, Rex Walls, who is the Father of Jeannette resembles a manipulator or evil archetypal type. He is the type of person who manipulates people with his charming words, especially with his daughter. He is an alcoholic, but he loves his kids more than anything. Even though, he loves his kids it doesn’t change the fact that he resembles a bad character. He takes advantage of his daughter considering that Jeannette is a very soft, kind-hearted person. When his wife, Rose Mary is away from school, Rex knows that Jeannette is in charge of the money. He takes advantage of Jeannette and asks if he could have some of the money for alcohol and cigarettes. Fortunately for Rex, Jeannette gives the money to him since she is a kind-hearted person. Also, Rex showed evil traits when they were in the car heading out and Jeannette states: “Quixote landed with a screeching meow and thud, Dad accelerated up the road, and I burst into tears” (Walls 32). Rex threw the cat out of the car, which causes harm to the cat and to his kids by taking away something that is close to them.
On the contrary, examining the symbol in the novel. The first one that comes to my mind is the Glass Castle. It was first shown in the novel when Jeannette states: “Dad was telling us about the wondrous things he was going to do, like build the Glass Castle… a great big house he was going to build for in the dessert” (Walls 100). Rex is the one who designs it to illustrate his fantasies and dreams. It could also symbolize hope for his family to strive back to the real world. I think that Jeannette will realize it by the time she is mature and understand that the Glass Castle will never come to its existence.
Therefore, Jeannette’s story definitely resembles a heroic archetypal type while her father showed the opposite. From what we’ve learned so far, we can guess that Jeannette will certainly confront his Father in the upcoming future when she is ready and has a very mature mindset. The first half of the book has many great examples of archetypes to showcase one’s character. Allowing the readers to understand more about the characters and the plot of the novel a lot more. I am personally excited to see what’s next and showcase other lenses that can be used to better my understanding to this emotional novel.
“INTRODUCTION.” Heros journey. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 July 2017.
“Katniss Everdeen.” The Hunger Games Wiki. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 July 2017.
“Symbols.” THE GLASS CASTLE. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 July 2017.
Walls, Jeannette. The glass castle: a memoir. New York: Scribner, 2006. Print.