Rex Walls is an interesting fellow.
He is a free spirit. He is imaginative. He is a loving father.
He is a narcissist. He is controlling. He is an abusive drunk.
But most importantly, he is a bully.
From what I can see, Jeannette Walls is the hero of her own story. Even though this is a creative non-fiction memoir, it follows the general template of a hero’s inner journey. As a young child, Walls believes her father could do anything. To Walls, he was her mentor and hero. This disillusion is the first step of a hero’s inner journey: The limited awareness of a problem.
Jeannette didn’t see how her dad was a bully but as I read her memoir, this fact became alarmingly obvious. Her dad is narcissistic, stubborn, and hot-headed. He has a lot of pride and is paranoid of the world around him and sure, these traits individually don’t make him a bully but how these traits make him interact with the people around him does.
A frequent victim of Rex Walls’ is Rose Mary, his wife.
From the beginning of the book, it is mentioned that Rex is an alcoholic that hits his wife when he is under the influence. His bully tendencies tend to show when he argues with his wife. Since he is a hot-head, he reacts very rashly.
There are many times he reacts rashly but a memorable moment was when he purposely tries to hit his pregnant wife with a car just for saying she was pregnant for twelve months. During this scene, Rose Mary gets out of the car and Rex is described to have been “ordering her to get back into the car” (Walls 43). He tries to exert his power over her and when she doesn’t comply, he corners her and drags her back into the car. The reason why this moment is a clear indicator of Rex’s bully archetype is because of Rose Mary’s description, “her eyes wide like a hunted animal’s.” The simile between Rose Mary and a hunted animal goes to show that Rex is a predator and she is his prey.
The sad thing is about Rex and Rose Mary is that this wasn’t the only time he nearly kills her.
When Rose Mary brings up Rex’s gambling problem and the fact that they were all starving, he goes ballistic. He tosses around her precious art supplies and disrespects her work. Their argument ultimately ends with Rex forcing Rose Mary out a window and dangling her off the second floor. Later, when she starts sobbing about how her husband wants to see her dead, he protests and says, “I didn’t push her, I swear to God I didn’t. She jumped” (Walls 72). As a bully, he places the blame on her and pretends to be innocent.
Rex is controlling and tries to dominate his wife in their marriage. When Rose Mary gets her paychecks, he tries to escort her to the bank to make sure she cashes in all of her money. When Rose Mary tries to slip some money to her children by stuffing it in a sock, Rex catches on and takes the money. Rose Mary can’t do anything against her husband and at the restaurant, Jeannette recounts, “to show who was in charge, Dad left the waitress a ten-dollar tip” (Walls 77) to make the point to show that he has the power in their marriage.
Jeannette takes longer than her mother and siblings to realize that Rex was a destructive force in their lives. As the hero of her story, she progresses to the second stage of her inner journey: The increases awareness for the need to change. Even before her family tells her that Rex needs to change, there’s a subtle difference to how Jeannette reacts to her father’s outrage. When Rex acts outraged about the fact his children were going hungry, there is a small sarcastic undertone, “as though he’d learned for the first time that his children were going hungry” (Walls 77).
The third step to Jeannette’s journey is the fear and resistance to change. Rex tells Jeannette, “You’re the only one around who still has faith in me, I don’t know what I’d do if you ever lost it” (Walls 79). At this point, she is aware that her father needs to change but she promises herself that she will never lose faith in him, hence resisting to change her opinion on her father.
I’ve only finished half of the memoir but there is no evidence of the fourth step of her inner journey yet but if the story progresses to match the general timeline of a hero’s inner journey, I think she will learn to overcome fear. The first chapter shows her in the future living a comfortable life in New York. To get there, I think she will overcome her need for his approval and leave her parents to pursue whatever her dreams are in New York.
Barker, Danika. “Archetypal Literary Criticism.” Scribd. Scribd, n.d. Web. 12 July 2017.
“Effects of Bullying.” StopBullying.gov. Department of Health and Human Services, 29
Feb. 2012. Web. 12 July 2017.
Walls, Jeannette. The glass castle: a memoir. New York: Scribner, 2006. Print.