Monday, September 24, 2007

Nature vs. Nurture

Much has been written and talked about regarding the memoir, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. I tried to avoid much of it before reading the book since I enjoy reading books fresh. In other words, books that I have no pre-conceived notions about, one way or another.

Having grown up in a family where addiction played a key role, this book struck a chord, although I certainly could not relate to much of the narrator's experiences, as my family was intact and had no visible signs of any dysfunctions, at least that I'm aware of.

Somehow the author / narrator steps outside of her unusual and unimaginable life and speaks about her experiences as if she was referring to someone else. I had to keep reminding myself that this was a memoir and not a work of fiction and that these were situations that were not created but recalled, and with such vivid detail.

There are four children in the Walls' family, all of whom turned out quite differently and whose experiences brought them to different places in their lives. Unfortunately, we only get to hear the perspective of one of them here and it is quite unlikely that the other three grown children remember the events the same way.

Since I studied psychology in college, I was intrigued by the notion that despite their upbringing, these children, with the exception of one who we hear little about as an adult, turn out as normally functioning members of our society. Educated, too.

It is quite apparent after reading this story that one does not need money or a plethora of material things to "make it" in the world. In fact, perhaps quite the opposite is true. Would the Walls' children learn the lessons they did if it weren't for their parents showing them and teaching them (without trying) that hard work and responsibility bring you certain advantages in life? After all, these children had to scrounge for their own food and learned to survive without their parents and in fact, spent many days and nights, most likely, worrying about them and taking care of them, both physically and emotionally.

These children saw their neighbors and classmates in a much different light. While people looked to her with pity, Jeannette sees others much differently than they see themselves and is inspired and motivated by simply wanting more, wanting to have enough and not go hungry.

One could argue that these children were neglected and that it would've been better for them to be removed from their home as children and brought into houses with warm food, warm beds and warm and loving 'parents.' One could also argue that being taken away from the only home and the only family they know could've done more harm than good.

This is quite an interesting and thought-provoking book and one that will most likely become required reading as it focuses on survival and reveals how young people today no longer rely on their instincts. Their own survival skills are not tested since they are provided with every opportunity, and an overabundance of choices which could possibly take away the chances of their ability to "make it on their own" once they step into the real world.

1 comment:

John said...

Good review. Thought provoking
book. Grandma S :)