Dad: Caring or Heartless?

By Ryan Z., 9th Grade

March 2019

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls includes a story where her dad throws her in the “hot pot” and another story where her dad uses her as bait in order to obtain money. Even though Jeannette learns similar lessons from both situations, her dad’s motivations are different, characterizing him as both caring and heartless.

When Jeanette’s dad tries to teach Jeannette how to swim, rejecting her futile attempts at help, she quickly realizes that “ rather than reaching for Dad’s hands, [she should] tr[y] to get away from them. [She] kicked at him and pushed away through the water with [her] arms” (Walls 66). Jeannette pushes away from Dad and learns the lesson of independence. Years later, Dad takes Jeannette to a bar as bait for money. A man molests Jeannette as Dad scams him for money. Afterward, this person forces Jeannette upstairs and attempts to rape her. When Jeannette remarks the person Dad baited “attacked [her] when [they] were upstairs”, Dad replies, “‘I’m sure he just pawed you some … I knew you could handle yourself’” (Walls 135). Similar to what Dad did at the pool, her father leaves Jeannette without help when she is almost raped. This leaves a major imprint on her. She learns a lesson of independence similar to the one taught to her at the Hot Pot, both of which Dad taught her through ignoring her needs. No twelve year old should have to go through fighting off a man trying to rape her. In both stories, Jeannette learns a similar lesson of independence even though her dad only tried to teach her in the hot pot, and he had ulterior reasons at the bar.

Dad’s motivations for his actions at the Hot Pot and the bar, though, are different. At the Hot Pot, Dad tells Jeannette “you can’t cling to the sides your whole life” (Walls 41). Dad’s motives here are to teach Jeannette independence is a part of life. You can’t cling to the sides all the time because there won’t always be a father figure to help you. After Dad takes all of Robbie’s money at the bar while playing pool, “Dad took out the money he’d won and counted off forty dollars, which he passed to me. ‘We make a good team,’ he said” (Walls 213). Dad bringing Jeannette to the bar is for one reason; to make money. He has no intention of teaching Jeannette independence, it just so happens that she inadvertently learns this lesson. Dad’s actions are characterized by the motivation behind them. The difference between the Hot Pot story and the bar story is in one Dad is caring and in another Dad is cruel.

Overall, both stories share similarities and differences. While both teach the essential lesson of independence, the Hot Pot story has Dad’s good intention for Jeannette driving it while the bar story has Dad’s intention to make money driving it.