Child Neglect in The Glass Castle
A statistic from Child Maltreatment, which is a government run website, says that one out of every 143 children suffers from child neglect (“Child Maltreatment”). When a child suffers from neglect, the parent is ignoring the child and his or her needs, which makes the child’s life extremely difficult. In The Glass Castle, a memoir written by Jeanette Walls and is based on her life, Jeannette suffers through her childhood with a drunk dad and a neglectant mom. Jeanette must learn how to fend for herself at a young age because her parents are rarely with her to properly take care of their children. Throughout Jeannette Wall’s book, The Glass Castle, there are many instances of child neglect that the author endures such as not having food on a regular basis and not having medical care when needed.
Child neglect can take many different forms including failure to provide the necessities in life like food. In The Glass Castle, Jeannette’s parents do not provide food for a large portion of the time for their children. Psychology Today states that if a child “steals or begs for food”, this can be a sign of child neglect (“Child Neglect”). If a child must ask or take food, their parents are not feeding them and this puts the children in a horrible and dangerous part of their life. When the Walls buy a large ham, it starts to grow maggots because they do not have a refrigerator. The mom says to her kids when they tell her it is full of maggots, “Don’t be so picky. Just slice off the maggoty parts. The inside’s fine” (172). Remembering her early childhood experiences, Jeannette recalls, “when other girls came in and threw away their lunch bags in the garbage pail, I’d go retrieve them” (Walls 173). Digging for food in a trash can is a classic example of neglect. Instead of Jeannette’s parents trying to get hired for a steady job to pay for their children’s food and meals, they choose to force their children through many tiresome hardships.
Another type of child neglect is lack of medical care. Jeannette is given little or no medical attention when needed multiple times in her childhood. If a child “lacks needed medical or dental care, immunizations, or glasses” this is a form of child neglect (“Child Neglect”). At the beginning of the book, when Jeannette is still a young child, she is cooking a hotdog by herself. Jeannette recalls, “Then the flames leaped up, reaching my face” (Walls 9). Her parents reluctantly took her to a hospital. While Jeanette is in the hospital, the nurses ask her many questions. She answers, “Mom says I’m mature for my age. She lets me cook for myself a lot” (Walls 11). This is obviously a form of child neglect because Jeannette’s mom allows a three-year-old to cook a hotdog on a hot stove with no supervision, which leads to this terrible incident. When Jeannette is thinking about braces, she recalls, “none of us kids had ever been to the dentist” (Walls 201). Again, this is a type of child neglect because a type of medical care is dental care and the parents do not provide this for their children.
The parents demonstrate their child negligence with two major failures: not providing food for their children on a regular basis and not providing medical care when needed. While the children attempt to remain content with their childhood, they never realize how wonderful life can truly be until it is too late and they are not kids anymore. Because they are neglected, the children do not have as many opportunities as most children do. The parents fail to provide for their children countless times, which leads to an extremely depressing childhood for Jeanette and her siblings. Fortunately for Jeannette and her siblings, they are able to leave home and find success and happiness as adults. Many neglected children, unfortunately, are not able to turn their lives around once they reach adulthood. This distressing tale is only one of many of the true cases of child neglect.
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