The Glass Castle Archetype Literary Theory Perspective

Through my reading of “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls I have so far found it is a novel of perseverance and family. As Jeanette grew up in a dysfunctional family of six alongside her; two sisters, brother, alcoholic father, and mother. Travelling from town to town she begins to go against her parents. As Janette reaches her teenage years she realizes how bad her childhood has been due to the carelessness of her parents towards the kids. She overcomes obstacles throughout her childhood and adolescence stages but that is what makes her the perfect example of the archetypal figure of the hero.


The hero archetype is portrayed through Jeanette in The Glass Castle.

Throughout the novel Jeanette portrays many characteristics of the hero archetype. The hero is typically raised under strange circumstances having to face obstacles in their life. That is exactly what she is faced by having her father make the family relocate every time he loses his job, which happened frequently, and not being able to stay in one town growing up like a normal child. The really special thing about hero’s is their ability to stay positive when these types of circumstances and obstacles occur in their lives. This is exactly what Jeanette does, because when they relocate to Welch “Seeing as how Welch was our new home, Brian and I figured we’d make the best of it.”(Walls 155) making the best of any circumstance is a clear sign of a hero. When comparing this to the hero archetype of another novel, I thought of  “I am Number Four” by Pittacus Lore, because of the way it brings out the same ideas. John Smith, the protagonist, is faced with similar circumstances having to move from place to place to hide from the mogadorians who are trying to kill him. Yet manages to makes the best of everywhere he goes, by meeting new people of importance in his life along the way. John Smith’s guardian Henri plays a similar role in this novel to the one Jeannette’s dad Rex does, reminding John every time the mogadorians were close, to pack his bags and prepare to leave. Having to overcome all these obstacles in your life and remaining positive is the representation of a true hero.


The archetypal figure I see in Jeanette’s father Rex Wall is the trickster. His characteristics fit that of a trickster. He has plenty of intelligence and secret knowledge. Although he uses it to disobey normal rules and standard behaviour. A really obvious place we see Rex being a trickster is  when he runs away from the hospital to not pay and doing what he calls checking out Rex Wall style. I also see Rex using his knowledge to convey a message in an unusual manner, such as a trickster would “If you don’t want to sink, you better figure out how to swim” (Walls 66). He says this to Jeannette to show her that she  must learn to take care of herself to survive and not sink in the world.



Fire is a symbol used quite extensively throughout the novel.

There are plenty of symbols prevalent in the text, but one of the most important ones is the fire. Showing the difference between Jeanette and her parents. At the beginning of the novel Jeanette gets lit on fire while cooking a hotdog which sends her to the hospital where her mom tells her “You’ve got to get right back in the saddle. You can’t live in fear of something as basic as fire”(Walls 15).  This is just one of the incidents where we see fire in this novel. At the start Jeanette is a just like her parents, addicted to excitement and not frightened by anything, including fire. As the novel progresses, she begins to fear fire again after spectating all the destruction fire can cause. This is what differentiates her from her parents, making her a more responsible person and teaching her there are consequences to things such as playing with fire.


The most important symbol I see is the glass castle itself,  which represents Rex’s hope for an amazing life where he can make the family proud and keep them happier. Rex has been planing for theGlass Castle intensely and his family are filled with belief he will make this structure until the foundation of the castle Rex has built gets filled with trash. It is a clear symbol of Jeanette’s childhood and her being able to trust her father with his promises that he will one day finish the castle. As toward the end of the novel her belief vanishes along with her childhood and trust with her father.



Work Cited

“Figure 2f from: Irimia R, Gottschling M (2016) Taxonomic revision of Rochefortia Sw. (Ehretiaceae, Boraginales). Biodiversity Data Journal 4: e7720.” (n.d.): n. pag. Web.

“Figure 2f from: Heller K, Rulik B (2016) Ctenosciara alexanderkoenigi sp. n. (Diptera: Sciaridae), an exotic invader in Germany? Biodiversity Data Journal 4: e6460.” (n.d.): n. pag. Web.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s