“Instead of worrying about what cannot be controlled, an individual must shift their energy into what can be created” (Roy T. Bennett). Jeannette Walls from The Glass Castle and Baby from Lullabies For Little Criminals are trapped in a state of disillusionment their entire lives. Delusion runs in the Walls family, and the children lack a rational parental influence to look up to, whereas Baby is an exact reflection of the danger she is exposed to, partly due to there being no mother figure in her life. Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose strong-willed non conformity were both their curse and their salvation and they were inhibited towards change.The non-conformity of the Walls family is a definite sign of intelligence and in an era of non-conformity, the non-conformity they presented was of unconditional love and strength of human spirit. The environment that Baby finds herself in is decrepit and damaging to the untrained eye, and Baby does not make an effort to change her ways and there becomes a point where she is doing the damage to herself. Baby’s conformity to her given environment leads her to a dangerous reality, her choice to conform leads her to believe it is the only way of living, and that drugs are the only escape. Jeanette is able to use her positive and negative experiences hand in hand to create a successful life. Although Baby’s future is unknown, without any structure in her life she will be destined to keep treading a troubled track. Individuals who do not learn to question their surroundings will not learn to reconstruct their lives into something greater.
Children sprout in the most wonderful ways when given the opportunity, and when childhood is precisely architected to ensure proper child development, most will flourish and succeed. Although sounding easy, family dynamic and parental guidance in both novels is lacking, giving the reader a glimpse of what the foreshadowed futures of Jeanette and Baby are. In The Glass Castle, each character carries their own completely different “persona” in spite of being part of almost seemingly the exact same environments. They are a highly dysfunctional family, yet perfectly intertwined to always maintain clarity in their aspirations. Rex and Rose Mary do not want to be given the responsibility of taking care of a family, thus they typically leave their children to fend for themselves. In spite of Rex being a drunk, careless father, he is undoubtedly extremely intelligent.”,“If you don’t want to sink, you better figure out how to swim” (Walls 66). This quote can be directly applied to Rex’s way guiding the children through life, Rex teaches his children literally to sink or swim. Rex puts Jeanette’s life at risk every time, but he places his confidence in her abilities to survive. Rex battles with the demons in his head, a struggle that persists throughout his whole life, impacting his relationships with his children. In return, Rex gives them the tools they need to battle their own demons. Primarily, it is the lessons of self sufficiency and fearlessness taught which provide the necessary strength to fend for themselves and create something out of nothing. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Baby from Lullabies For Little Criminals is emotionally deprived due to the absence of a mother figure in her life. The lack of this figure causes her to feel isolated at times, unwanted, and unappreciated, “I’d grown up with men around the house, and there would never be anyone to help me match my clothes or fix my hair” (O’Neill 148). The effect of this causes Baby to look for affection in places she should not. She dwells on thoughts of her mother, wondering what her life would be like if she was there to raise her. Perhaps Baby’s mother is what is missing from the puzzle piece to ensure Baby lives a normal life, but her early childhood was characterized by neglect. Baby’s father, Jules, provides an environment for little criminals to thrive in, which is exactly what Baby does. Influenced by her father’s drug use, Baby begins to use heroin and dabbles in prostitution.. Baby does not know any better, this life style seems normal due to the circumstances of her upbringing. Although it is evident that Baby and Jules are typically in disagreement, he is somebody she can not live without and experiences an abusive emotional attachment towards him. “Usually you get drugs from the crowd that you hung around with. But I was twelve and none of the people I hung around were into drugs. There were simply no cool kids my age” (74). Baby’s thoughts are justifiable because this way of living is natural to her. Baby’s delusion is apparent when she speaks upon kids her age not being “cool” because they are not abusing drugs. She is running much ahead of her time due to it becoming her own responsibility to feed, clothe, and shelter herself at the age of 13, but never once makes an effort to change her ways and escape the rabbit hole Jules has effortlessly hopped into, dragging Baby down with him.
The actions of Rex and Rose Mary Walls in The Glass Castle reveal that they are non-conformist kind of people. This results in Jeannette being the exact opposite. The Walls family falls into a habit of moving around different places, running from tax collectors and FBI agents, what Rex referred to as doing the “skedaddle”. Rex and Rose Mary view their non-conformist beliefs as a higher responsibility than their children. “The next time they visited Brian’s head was wrapped in a dirty white bandage with dried blood stained. Mom said he had fallen off the back of the couch and cracked his head open on the floor, but she had Dad had decided not to take him to the hospital” (Walls 13). It is the expectation that most parents would bring their child to receive treatment after an incident like this, but not the Walls parents. Their rational thought process gets interrupted for their desires to pursue a liberating life of their own. Rose Mary often said that she prefers painting rather than cooking, because a painting lasts forever. She chooses to let Jeannette and her other children make their own choices, leading Jeanette to take on the mother figure to her younger siblings. Despite Rose Mary’s non-conformist attitude, she considers herself a devout catholic. Jeanette ultimately choose a more idealistic notion of responsibility than her parents, but she remains curious as to why her parents are unable to take responsibility for their actions. “I had always wanted a watch. Unlike diamonds, watches were practical. They were for people on the run, people with appointments to keep and schedules to meet. That was the person I wanted to be” (216). Jeanette’s desire for a watch stems from her need for practicality, she viewed it as something an important person might own, and she believed important people had a better sense of purpose and meaning in the world. She learns she feels the most natural when things are practical, and she was taught this by being raised in a family who threw out anything that slowed them down. This leads her to a better perception of herself, manifesting a life better than the one her parents are able to provide. Unfortunately, the situation is much different for Baby in Lullabies For Little Criminals. Baby is left alone most of the time, and spends a lot of her time in her head. Baby chooses to immerse herself into a society where drugs and prostitution is acceptable for a 13 year old girl. At such a young age, there a very few options Baby has to restabilize her life, therefore she chooses the only way she knows, which is to keep walking the wrong path. Baby’s environment normalizes morally wrong situations, thus warping her perception of what is right from wrong. “Lonely children probably wrote the bible” (O’Neill 59). Baby is able to make deep observations about the world going on around her. The absence of guidance in her life causes her to pray to God for someone to turn up who she can place her trust in. She rarely finds herself trying to make light of a situation, but when she does, her plainspoken yearning reminds us that maturity comes with experiences, not age. It is difficult to pull yourself onto your feet at such a young age while collecting a poor track record at the same time, and Baby struggles with this her whole life.