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Rex Walls: He Shattered the Glass Castle

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Cody Desmond

Professor Richard- English 099

Extra Credit Paper

Due: December 13th, 2011

Rex Walls: He Shattered The Glass Castle

In the memoir The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls describes her childhood and adolescence. When she was young, her father, Rex Walls, was especially close to her. However, Rex is not a textbook father. He is proud of the man he is and everything he stands for, but he is torn between his good intentions and his misguided actions. While Rex is an intelligent man with much enthusiasm for his own grand dreams, he fails at providing a stable life for his family. Although he loves his wife and his children, Rex's protective nature declines with his increasing alcoholism.

As a young girl, Jeannette admires her father and wants to be just like him: "By the time I was four, I was pretty good with dad's pistol" (p.21). Rex's major downfall is alcohol, but even as an alcoholic, he retains his sharp mind, "Everybody said dad was a genius. He could build or fix anything" (p.22). Rex insisted on teaching his family what he thought was useful. He could make things from scratch and turn them into something that would supposedly benefit him and his family. "He also taught us the things that were really important and useful, like how to tap out Morse code and how we should never eat the liver of a polar bear because all the vitamin A in it could kill us" (p.20). This proves that Rex's perception of reality is distorted, because the information he transfers to his children is not really useful. Rex had an invention called the prospector, which would be used to go through the desert to find gold. Rex thought it would make him a millionaire. The prospector became a broken dream when Rex never put the finishing touches on it and it never got to work. This symbolizes Rex's life, because he is filled with promises and big dreams, but nothing ever comes of it.

Rex always did all he could for his children, even though it was typically not enough. He could never hold a steady job, whether it was because of his drinking problem or because they were always moving away after a couple of weeks in a new town. Rex claimed that the FBI was searching for them, but later on, Jeannette learns that they were merely fleeing from bill collectors. The whole family was always on the run, so they never had time to settle down and actually live a normal life early on. "Dad said my sharpshooting would come in handy if the feds ever surrounded us." (p.21) Every time Rex thought the FBI was hot on his tail, he would get his family together, no matter what was occurring at the time, and do what Rex called "skedaddle",

"Dad was so sure a posse of federal investigators was on our trail that he smoked his unfiltered cigarettes from the wrong end. That way, he explained, he burned up the brand name, and if the people who were tracking us looked in his ashtray, they'd find unidentifiable butts instead of Pall Malls that could be traced to him." (p.19)

Rex was evidently paranoid. Clearly, Rex felt the need to embellish the truth and make his life sound grander than it was. Jeannette was always her father's liberator. When everyone else had given up on him, he could always turn to her for warmth.

Rex Walls had excellent intentions, but his morals were warped. He always had an understanding about intellectual things, but he did not have too much knowledge about how to raise a family.

"Dad was an expert in math and physics and electricity. He read books on calculus and logarithmic algebra and loved what he called the poetry and symmetry of math. He told us about the magic qualities every number has and how numbers unlock the secrets of the universe. But dad's main interest was energy: thermal energy, nuclear energy, solar energy, electrical energy, and energy from the wind. He said there were so many untapped sources of energy in the world that it was ridiculous to be burning all that fossil fuel." (p.23)

When his children were younger, Rex would promise them the world. He promised them he would build a vast glass castle that they would live in, even though deep down, Rex knew that was not possible. "Dad could talk a blue streak, spinning tales of jobs he'd never had and college degrees he'd never earned. He could get about any job he wanted; he just didn't like keeping it for long" (p.19). One of the reasons Rex's kids always looked up to him, even though he was not the "picture perfect" father, was that he always had his kids trust him. "You just trust your old man" (p.14), Rex would say. When Jeannette was little, she had a terrible accident which covered her in horrific burns and sent her to the hospital. Then one day, when Jeannette was still in the hospital, Rex appeared in the doorway and said they were checking out, "Rex Walls-style." He picked up Jeannette and started sprinting out of the hospital. "I breathed in his familiar smell of Vitalis, whiskey, and cigarette smoke. It reminded me of home." (p.14).

Even though they were always on the run, Rex kept his kids busy. He had his kids out looking for gold when they lived out in the desert. Also, he took them out demon hunting to keep active.

Rex is torn between genuine love for his children and his alcoholism. One moment he will be telling his children all these wonderful things he will do for them, and the next moment he is cursing them out while he is blackout drunk. Whenever Rex got discouraged, he went and got drunk and caused destruction. "In my mind, dad was perfect, although he did have what mom called a little bit of a drinking situation...after working on the bottle for a while, dad turned into an angry-eyed stranger who threw around furniture and threatened to beat up mom or anyone else who got in his way." (p.23). Throughout his children's life, Rex became more and more menacing. They moved from the desert to Phoenix to the sticks in West Virginia. Changing their

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