Sometimes real life can be more incredible than a movie. That’s what Jeannette Walls must have thought when she started thinking about it: she was already an experienced journalist and writer, and undoubtedly, her life story had enough material for a great book. That’s how she published The Glass Castle in 2005, which became a movie in 2017. In this article, we will recap her incredible true story and the meaning we can find in her book and the movie.
You can watch the official trailer for The Glass Castle here on Youtube.
The Glass Castle: a true story by Jeannette Walls
The Glass Castle is a memoir by Jeannette Walls, published in 2005. It became a vast editorial success, staying on The New York Times Best Seller list for over five years. From the book, a movie of the same name was released in 2017, starring Naomi Watts, Woody Harrelson, and Brie Larson.
The book (and the movie) The Glass House describes the true life story of the protagonist Jeannette Walls. She grew up in a dysfunctional family, through a nomadic childhood; her experiences included physical abuse and domestic violence, urging her to find escape by herself. When she was old enough, she left her family and started working in New York as a journalist, making her life worthy.
Her mother was a painter, and her father has been losing one job after the other for their whole lives. Both parents were intelligent people gifted with critical thinking. Still, they decided to live as outcasts, outsides of normal society. They loved their children, but the father had a severe drinking problem, and her mother couldn’t take a stand and demand better living conditions. Growing up in this situation, Jeannette Walls developed the awareness that the children needed to care for themselves, knowing they won’t have valid guidance. Jeannette left her family when she was old enough and went to New York, starting to work as a journalist. Her career as a writer led her to write the book about her true story, The Glass Castle.
Watching the movie, we have a clear understanding of how unique Jeannette’s life has been. As an adult, Jeannette Walls developed her life far from her parents, blaming them for her difficult childhood. At the same time, she’s always been aware that her parents loved her very much. She also recognizes the positive values her mother and her father passed to all children. She describes her father as the biggest dreamer and the most intelligent person she knows. “The Glass Castle” is, in fact, his biggest dream: living in a castle built by him, made of glass, so they can always see the sky at any moment of the day.
We can find some important meaning in the movie The Glass Castle, in the book written by Jeannette Walls, and in its true story in general. We have the chance to understand the reasons that led the Walls family to live outside of society: the modern social rules impose a lifestyle that can quickly become a cage, where the money logic destroys the pleasure of natural life. Bringing this position to the extreme, we also understand why Jeannette Walls spontaneously develops the need to be integrated into society: we adopt social rules because we need safety; feeling safe is one of our basic human needs, and the structure of society gives us a stable frame where we can fit, making as feel a part of a community. At the same time, critical thinking allows us to recognize when those rules become a problem, depriving our life of spontaneity and subjecting too much part of it to money.
As we discover at the end of The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls and her siblings are now perfectly integrated into society. They don’t miss the tough moments of their lives, especially the ones involving violence and physical abuse (because of these elements, the book was among the most banned and challenged books in the United States). But they are also aware of the good memories they have from their childhood, and they can feel grateful for what they had.
Below you can find an interview where Jeannette Walls talks about her life and book: her words make the perfect commentary to the movie scenes.