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Could you imagine being forced to make your own meals at the age of three? Well, that is exactly what Jeanette Walls experiences in The Glass Castle, a novel written about her life growing up. Throughout the book, she tells her readers about difficult times in her life that she experienced during her childhood. Rex, the author’s father, displays anger issues, and alcoholism, and shows a lack of empathy many times throughout just the first couple of chapters. Jeanette’s mom Rosemary also shows signs of unhealthy submission and abusive nature. The author’s portrayal of Rex and Rosemary leaves a feeling of dislike and hatred for the abusive, unstable, and unfit parents they are described to be.

Rex lacks empathy on many different occasions. On one particular occasion, Rex had just gathered Rosemary and their kids into the car and decided that he no longer wanted their pet cat, Quixote. The author states the following, “Dad stopped the car, grabbed Quixote by the scruff of the neck, and tossed him out the window”(Walls 18). Many families see their pets as family members and could never imagine throwing them away just like they were a piece of garbage. The absence of remorse in Rex’s following actions speaks to the opinion that he lacks empathy. Another example of this happens when the family takes on too many stray cats. The females end up having a lot of kittens and, instead of finding them a new home, Rex puts them in a trash bag and throws them away. The kittens were all still alive when this took place. While he is abusive and unempathetic while completely sober, alcohol augments the issue. For example, one night Rex went out and came home wasted. Jeanette gives us a few examples of the things that he would do, “He broke windows and smashed dishes and furniture until he’d spent all his anger…”(Walls 112). Not only does this show Rex’s problem with alcohol abuse but his anger issues shine through as well. While he tried to overcome his alcohol addiction on page 117, he quickly reverted back to his old abusive habits on page 122. All of this combined causes my opinion of him and his character to be harsh but justified. I feel as if Rex should never have brought children into this world knowing the bad habits and dangerous situations he could expose them to.

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Rosemary Walls is a completely different character. While I do feel they both have problems of their own, I feel as if their struggles are completely different from one another. Rosemary shows signs of unhealthy submission as she follows whatever Rex tells her to do. One example of this is when Rosemary’s mother, Grandma Smith, gets into an argument with Rex while he and his family are staying at her house. They both make gibes at each other until finally, Grandma asks him to leave because he is under her roof. Rex tells Rosemary and their four kids to get their stuff and go to the car. While Grandma pleads with Rosemary, “not to let that worthless horse’s ass take her grandchildren,” Rosemary replied back telling her there is nothing she can do to stop him because he was her husband (Walls 20). Rosemary’s response to Rex could be out of fear, but whether that is the case or not, it is with the reluctant submission that Rosemary follows him. The reason this is so alarming is due to the fact that while her mother takes very good care of her children, like bathing, combing their hair, and feeding them, Rex puts her and their children in harm’s way without ever thinking twice about it. A mother should be there to protect her kids, and while Rosemary tries, staying in this relationship and household proves in the end to only be toxic to everyone involved. Contrary to that, however, she also shows signs of abusive behavior. On page 42, Rosemary and Rex get into an argument because she says she has been carrying their latest child, Maureen, for 10 months. Rex says that this is impossible to which Rosemary responds by jumping out of the car and running into traffic. Personally, I don’t believe she actually intended to harm herself, but in fact that this was a tactic used to hurt and scare her husband and children. I see this as abuse because she had the option to just give up and stop the conversation, but instead chose to play with her family’s emotions. That is unfair to punish her children by scaring them just because of their father’s argumentative nature. So while I believe Rex causes many harmful events, I think that Rosemary has just as much involvement in the psychological issues of her children.

Because of the author’s bold and negative portrayal of Rex and Rosemary Walls, their reputation in my mind is nothing short of unreliable, inhumane role models for their four young children.

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