The Glass Castle memoir is a book that was written in 2005 by Jeannette Walls and illustrates remarkable resilience and rescue of a family that is intensely be vibrant and dysfunctional. The book narrates suffering and exceptional poverty that the children of Rose and Rex go through as a result of ignorance and dysfunction of their parents. It further explains much vibrant life that the family has, moving from one city to another to mountains, fleeing from debts or seeking some jobs for sustenance. The memoir describes the pain that the children suffer until they get resources to leave home and live on their own. The title of the book relates to the glass castle that Rex, the father of four, promised to build for his family, but his intention was never realized. This paper outlines different types of poverty and influence of several factors including economic risks, uneven grounds and lack of jobs on poverty as reflected in the Glass Castle based on different articles.
Poverty is a state of scarcity of resources needed to meet the basic human wants. Chronic poverty is a state when individuals experience scarcity over a prolonged period of time. People suffering from chronic poverty face many challenges and deprivations due to illiteracy, exploitation, hunger, social isolation and malnutrition (Walls 30). Chronic poverty is seen in the book Glass Castle in Rex’s family as they keep moving from one place to another while running away from debts that they have accumulated. It is their inability to get a good promising job so that they could make a decent living that keeps them moving from place to place and searching for the job that could satisfy their lifestyle. This can be referred to as chronic poverty for Jeannette talks mostly about them starving due to lack of food as their father never had a promising or stable job. This state begins when they are young; they grow up in it until they finally get enough resources and move to live on their own. Since childhood, this family faces poverty, which can be referred to as chronic. Secondly, Jeannette is seen to be severely exploited and molested by a crowd of school girls due to the state of her family. Jeannette is given names such as dirty, poor and ugly by the bullying leader (Walls 34). The family is also seen to be in isolation as they live in isolated environments that are not pleasing at all. This deters people from socializing with them.
According to the book “A framework for understanding poverty” by Payne, there are also generational and situational types of poverty. Generational poverty is a state when a family has been in poverty for two generations or more. Generational poverty is characterized by hopelessness, when motivation and courage to break the cycle is absent (Payne 60). There exists a belief that life cannot be better and nothing can be done to change the situation. Another characteristic of people in generational poverty is surviving. It means that individuals live today, and the problems will be solved tomorrow. These problems may include finding a place to live or money to buy food, and they are addressed only when an urgent arises. All these characteristics of generational poverty are seen in Walls’ family. When the family visits their grandparents in Welch, they find them drunk and living in poverty (Walls 131-132). Their lives lack hope, so when they get to their extended family, the situation seems to worsen as they also appear hopeless in their state, which this adds to the state of hopelessness in Wall’s family. Though they had expectations of better life in Welch, all these fade when they find a similar situation to that in the village.
On the other hand, situational poverty can be experienced when a particular change occurs, and there is a diminution in the sources of outcome and support. This change can either be death, job loss or divorce. This can create much change and differences in the income of families and an individual, leading to what is termed as situational poverty. Unlike generational poverty, there is a presence of hope in situational poverty as there is a belief that difficulties happen for a moment and life will soon come back to the normal state. In Walls’ family, situational poverty is also evident. For instance, on page 159 the author Jeannette is seen to give a quote to his parents, saying “We can take care of our own, we do not accept handouts from anyone” (Walls 159). The parents are refuse from any charity help in the form of foodstuff, welfare or any other form. As a result, this brings forth situational poverty in the family. Despite the fact that the family is going through a lot of difficulties and experiences hard times, they are hopeful that things will change for better some day and neglect any form of charity offered to them (Payne).
In Uneven Ground: Appalachia since 1945, Eller tries to study the political advancement in the Appalachia since the times of the Second World War with an initiative of progress (Eller 36). This region struggles much to live in harmony, respect the cultural values and diversity as well as overcome poverty. He later concludes that this area was not different from the rest of America. Much modernization and technology brought about many changes in the Appalachia. During the Second World War, many jobs that resulted from industrial revolution were axed and the levels of poverty amplified. However, after technology invention years later there were many jobs available to the citizens. The technology that at first increased jobs led to their decline; machines now replaced human beings and many individuals remained out of work. This resulted in many declines in the mines, rendering a large population unemployed.
In Welch, Jeannette’s life was not much different from that in Appalachia in America. Wealthy people did not generally live in towns or gather in the same place. A small number of those who did mining lived on the streets, except for grown-ups who mostly were indoors and did not walk at all. This could mean the individuals were less motivated to work in mines or were deeply buried in their troubles. The best thing with these Welch inhabitants is that they unwillingly received public aid (Wall 159). Jeannette, the author of the memoir, portrays the people of Welch as “hard”; maybe because life there was hard, it made people hard, or maybe because mining was dangerous, cramped and dirty work, it that put all the miners in bad mood (Walls 164). The lack of motivation to work in these mines caused a state of poverty that was evident in the area. This is also seen in case of Rex’s wife Rosemary. She is not at all motivated to work as a teacher, and this mostly leaves the family in a state of poverty as she only gives lessons when the husband is jobless and the children are going to starve due to the lack of food.
Secondly, desperate poverty is also seen in Welch population through the great disparities between the poor and the rich. There is a great difference between the two groups of individuals. Thus, this creates a wide poverty gap as the rich continue to get richer and the poor are getting poorer. For instance, when Jeannette visits her classmate, she gets a privilege to see her luxurious house with a furnace and thermostat that the family has, which she has never seen before. It was the first time she saw such a luxurious life with furnace and thermostat, and she never even knew it existed. This contrast continues to display desperate poverty in Welch population (Walls 179).
In the book Understanding Poverty, several chapters provide an analysis of economic wants and changes that are risky for the underprivileged. Risks are seen as a reason why the poor will remain poor. For this reason, the analysis provides an outline of the reluctance of the poor or underprivileged to invest in agriculture and insurance. Asset market failures and preferences toward risks explain why asset ownership matters, why worthwhile transactions and investments may not always take place, and why the poor may remain poor as a result (Banerjee et al. 19). Many uncertainties and failures occur in agriculture. For instance, the poor face a dangerous environment: the weather is uncertain, crops die for all sorts of reasons, prices are volatile, illness strikes often, etc. (Banerjee et al. 20).
In the Glass Castle, Jeannette is seen trying to fix their house to look better and more pleasant, but the family is not devoted to or interested in her efforts. She paints the house fresh yellowish color, but none of them realizes her efforts, nor shares her eagerness to make the house look beautiful. Instead, they give reasons and excuses to her that the painting will not cause any changes to the house. Their thinking shows that for them the house is damaged beyond repair, and painting can change nothing. At least fixing and repairing the house may amend its setting and look, but the fact that the family never wanted to take risk made them remain in the unrepaired house (Walls 157). Another good example is seen when Rex argues that there is no proper sewer system in Welch, and there are no available initiatives after taking care of the environment as well as saving and protecting the Tug River from pollution. There is absence of collective self-initiative as he believes nothing can be done to the sewer; however, together with the rest of population they can join hands and try help/rescue the situation (Walls 133).
In conclusion, the paper reflects different levels of poverty and impact of factors such as uneven grounds, economic risks and lack of jobs has on poverty in the Walls’ family. Several types and levels of poverty are displayed in the family. These are chronic, generational and situational poverty as explained above. Additionally, some factors have been linked with the cause of poverty in Walls’ family, including economic risks, lack of job and uneven grounds. All these factors are reflected and explained in the book Glass Castle. Uneven grounds are seen in Walls’ family when Jeannette visits a classmate and finds a luxury life contrary to the life in poverty she was used to. Generational poverty is also seen when they visit their relatives in Welch and find them hopeless. Situational poverty is illustrated when the parents refuse to accept any help, believing they are able to fix their problems on their own.
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