The first half of “The Glass Castle,” written by Jeannette Walls, was very interesting and full of excitement. There were various characters in the book, but I believe two of them stood out to portray specific archetypal characters.
Rex Walls (Jeannette’s dad) reminds me of the trickster. This archetypal character likes to live in the moment, and Rex definitely shows this in the book (Soulcraft). Rex is referred to as an alcoholic, and he sure is portrayed as one. Drinking alcohol is his way of escaping all his responsibilities/worries, and to just do as he pleases. The fact that he is an alcoholist shows his trickster personality, as the reason for his addiction is to live in the moment and not care about the future, or how it will affect others. A characteristic of this archetypal character is that they like to be funny and make jokes. Jeannette says, “One payday Dad owed the mine company eleven cents. He thought it was funny and told them to put it on his tab”(Walls 35), and this is just one example in the book about Jeannette’s dad being funny. Jeannette says, “Dad appeared alone in the doorway of my room. He told me we were going to check out, Rex Walls–style.” Right after this, Rex grabs her and runs out while the nurses are telling him to stop. This is taking place in the hospital as Rex believes Jeannette doesn’t need to be in the hospital. This is not allowed, but a characteristic of the trickster archetype is that they do what they please, and this is just another example of how Rex is shown to possess this archetype.
I can also associate the explorer archetype with Jeannette. It is said that this archetype desires to find out who they are through exploring, and is looking to better their life. Jeannette’s family is always travelling from place to place throughout this book, and Jeannette over this time really gets to know herself. “We moved around like nomads. We lived in dusty little mining towns in Nevada, Arizona, and California” (Walls 11). This quote is Jeannette describing her early experiences of them travelling. It shows that they never really spent much time in one spot, as she just vaguely says the states. At the beginning of the book, the author shows Jeannette in the future, and how she is living in New York in a building on Park Avenue (known to have upper-class houses). This shows how Jeannette has this life living in poverty, sometimes without food to eat, and shows how she becomes successful and escapes the impoverished life. Also, I found that there was a key archetypal symbol in the book.
The major symbol that appeared in the book was fire. There were various fires throughout this book. The first one was when Jeannette was cooking hot dogs at the age of three and burned herself. The next one was when they were in a hotel in San Francisco, and a fire erupted in the middle of the night. A bit later in the book, the family was staying at a place called Battle Mountain, and Jeannette and her brother were playing with matches in a laboratory. They mixed nuclear fuel with some other liquids, and lit it with a match. This caused an explosion to occur, and set one of the walls on fire. The most surprising fire in the first half of this book was when Rex set the Christmas tree on fire (because he was drunk). This in turn burned up all the other presents under the tree. Fire as a symbol in this book is very important. It shows the destruction of the family as they have had something positive come into their lives. For example, the fire Rex started with the Christmas tree was symbolic. They had just gotten possession of the Grandma’s mansion, and this was the first time they decided to celebrate Christmas. This was all positive, and brought joy to the family, but the fire destroyed this happiness, and was a main reason for them leaving. I believe that the archetypal hero’s journey was present in this book.
The hero’s journey consists of various stages (which you probably know about), and I believe that Jeannette’s journey has similarities and differences with the archetypal hero’s journey. Jeannette at first lived in the ordinary world in the trailer camp (thewritersjourney). Then her “call to adventure” would have been the night when her dad told their family that they had to leave immediately(thewritersjourney). There wasn’t much hesitation from Jeannette, but she did leave her toy doll that she was mentally attached to. The “meeting a mentor” stage is somewhat absent, but she does come to a few realizations(thewritersjourney). For example, she started to question people in her family like when she said, “And that made me wonder if she was the one who’d stolen the can of corn the night before, which got me a little mad “(Walls 43). These small realizations are actually very crucial, as they influence the relationships between her and her family members. In my opinion, I would believe that Jeannette “crossed the threshold” when her family decided to go live with Rex’s family(thewritersjourney). I believe this is how the main character’s journey aligns with the hero’s journey. Based on this, I can also predict how the journey will evolve in the later half of this book.
Later in the book, I expect the archetypal hero’s journey to be continued. The main challenge has not really been shown, but I can tell that Jeannette doesn’t like Rex’s parents and is making connections between them and Rex’s personality. For example, Jeannette makes the connection between how difficult Rex’s parents act, and why Rex initially left Welch. I can also see the last step of the journey is present as Jeannette’s success is shown (indicated by her apartment on Park Ave.).
Golden, Carl. The 12 Common Archetypes. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 July 2017.
“The Glass Castle Symbols from LitCharts | The creators of SparkNotes.” LitCharts. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 July 2017.
“The Hero’s Journey Outline.” Hero’s journey. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 July 2017.