Jeannette Walls’ memoir, The Glass Castle, gives a vivid description of what life is like growing up in a poor family where parental negligence and limited supervision is common. Walls grows up with a high tolerance for hard times and bravery that is unmatched. Her self-sufficiency and education helped Walls escape her difficult childhood and poor family life growing up. Walls’ memoir clearly refutes the statement made in The Great Gatsby by Daisy Buchanan that “the best thing a girl can be in this world, [is] a beautiful, little fool” (Fitzgerald 17).
In Walls’ eyes, the best thing a girl can be is strong, motivated, and, most importantly, educated. Throughout The Glass Castle, Walls uses anecdotes, figurative language, and a repetition of words that proves her stance is one that plainly contradicts Daisy’s statement about what furthers the life of women. First, Jeannette Walls uses an anecdote in The Glass Castle that displays how education is what allowed her to further herself in society.
In the beginning of the novel, Walls tells stories about how her parents, especially her dad, had taught her how to read before grade school and made everything more difficult so that she would be smarter than the rest of the children. She mentioned one time when her dad made her use binary numbers to do her math homework and how her teacher did not approve. When Walls enters high school, she uses an anecdote to prove how it was her education that allowed her to go from proofreader of the school paper to editor-in-chief quicker than anyone else had before.
Because Walls had been pushed by her parents to be smarter than the other kids, she was able to join the school paper in the seventh grade. To show just how important that was in furthering herself, Walls writes, “Miss Bivens told me that as far as she could remember, I was the only seventh-grader who’d ever worked for the Wave,” (Walls 203). Walls continues the story by laying out the years before the eleventh grade when she writes, “That fall, when I was going into the tenth grade, Miss Bivens made me news editor of The Maroon Wave.
After working as a proofreader in the seventh grade, I’d started laying out pages in the eighth grade, and in the ninth grade I began reporting and writing articles and taking photographs” (Walls 231). The story ends with Walls writing, “When I was a junior, Miss Bivens made me editor in chief, though the job was supposed to go to a senior” (Walls 232). This anecdote told by Walls plainly refutes Daisy’s statement about how the only way for a woman to further herself is by her looks because Walls furthered herself through education.
Walls is able to move up the chain of command in the school newspaper by using no more than her talent for writing. Next, Jeannette Walls stance can be proven through her figurative language because her life is an example that contradicts Daisy’s statement. Walls never saw herself as being beautiful and she had what her mom called ‘distinctive looks’. To explain this to the reader, Walls writes, “My elbows were like flying wedges and my knees like tea saucers” (Walls 200).
This simile portrays her as not being that attractive, but Walls is still able to succeed in life and further herself as a woman. When Miss Katona uses prom as a reason for Jeannette to stay in Welch, she writes, “As for the senior prom, I had about as much chance of getting a date as Dad did of ending corruptions in the unions” (Walls 236). This analogy refutes Daisy’s statement again because it shows that Walls is not very attractive, but she is still able to further herself later in life. Her dad explained that “she already fought the fire once and won…
” (Walls 15). This personification of fire brings light upon the fact that Jeannette is brave. Her bravery is another thing that allows her to further herself in life because she is not scared to move away from her parents at only seventeen. Since Walls is able to grow up and acquire a college degree and a steady job, her life contradicts Daisy because Jeannette is neither beautiful nor a fool. Lastly, Walls repeats the word ‘mountain goat’ to emphasize that a woman must have a strong will in order to further herself in life.
The word is a nickname given to Jeannette by her father, Rex Walls. The nickname refers to her ability to stay focused in the face of danger because, like a mountain goat, she is able to climb mountains without losing her footing, which takes a strong will in order to accomplish. Jeannette writes, “”I never fell down when we were climbing mountains – sure footed as a mountain goat, he’d always say” (Walls 36). The word is also used to show bravery in Jeannette and how that trait allows her to get away from Welch.
Rex explains to Jeannette that “All you have to do, Mountain Goat, is show old Demon that you’re not afraid” (Walls 36). This is one of the first uses of the word ‘mountain goat’ in The Glass Castle and it puts emphasis on the idea that Jeannette is not afraid of anything. When Jeannette finally finishes college and asks Rex to come to her graduation, he replies, “I don’t have to see my Mountain Goat grabbing a sheepskin to know she’d got her college degree” (Walls 267).
This reveals that after all the hard work and the bravery Jeannette showed, she was able to further herself farther than anyone else in her family ever could. This nickname that Rex gives Jeannette foreshadows her bravery when she has to live apart from her parents and siblings when she is only seventeen. Jeannette Walls usage of anecdotes, figurative language, and a repetition of the word ‘mountain goat’ can be used to prove that her stance on what the best thing a woman can be clearly refutes that of Daisy’s stance from The Great Gatsby.
Walls anecdote about becoming editor-in-chief shows that education can also further a woman in life. The idea that Walls is unattractive also refutes Daisy’s statement because Walls was able to further herself without being considered beautiful. Lastly, she uses a repetition of the word ‘mountain goat’ to emphasize that she believes that one of the best things a woman can be is strong-willed and brave. Although Jeannette Walls had a strong argument for what the best thing a woman could be, the best thing for her might not always be the best thing for everyone.