Suffering when you’re young is good for you, she said. It immunized your body and your soul, and that was why she ignored us kids when we cried.

Jeannette’s mother doesn’t believe in coddling children. She thinks that they need to be free to make their own choices and mistakes, even if it ends in physical damage. While her philosophy certainly has some truth to it, and there’s a wonderful freedom in the Walls’ kids' curious and exploratory lifestyles, the Walls parents often take this belief to the extreme. The children suffer unnecessary and dangerous physical ailments due to both negligence and abuse on the part of Rose Mary and Rex.

“Just remember,” Mom said after examining the blisters, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” “If that was true, I’d be Hercules by now,” Lori said.

Mom believes wholeheartedly in the idea that hardship results in strong, self-sufficient people. While she’s correct to some extent, and her children do acquire incredible resilience, Lori pushes back on her mother’s beliefs. Sometimes hardship only leads to further hardship, and Lori doesn’t feel that she’s gained strength from her suffering. In fact, it’s remarkable how successful Lori and the rest of the Walls’ children became despite the exhausting and potentially catastrophic challenges they endured due to their parents’ mistreatment.

“You’d be destroying what makes it beautiful,” she said. “It’s the Joshua tree’s struggle that gives it its beauty.”

Mom is offended by Jeannette’s idea to water and reshape the bent Joshua tree because she finds remarkable beauty in the lengths it has taken to survive. Its contorted shape shows how it has fought to grow despite destructive winds and little water supply. Jeannette’s mom feels that struggle is an essential part of life that changes someone for the better, and she relates so deeply to the tree that she paints it numerous times. Although Mom’s views on suffering through hardship are not always healthy, her appreciation for living beings who have struggled and won is a beautiful part of her outlook on life, and one that shapes Jeannette’s personality.

People got stuck in Welch. I had been counting on Mom and Dad to get us out, but I now knew I had to do it on my own.

Although Rose Mary and Rex do not often give their children everything they need – in this case, a safe home, a healthy family dynamic, and an opportunistic future – the way they raised their kids gives Jeannette and her siblings the tenacity and independence to rescue themselves from their increasingly concerning circumstances. All the Walls children prove themselves to be self-sufficient and hardy due to their adventurous yet challenging childhood. They work hard and jump at the opportunities they are given, and, despite varying levels of difficulty, they all escape Welch and the toxic influence of their parents.

Mom and Dad liked to make a big point about never surrendering to fear or to prejudice or to the narrow-minded conformist sticks-in-the-mud who tried to tell everyone else what was proper.

One sympathetic and admirable part of Rex and Rose Mary’s personalities is their open-minded, free-spirited, and inquisitive worldview. They question and rebel even when it means that they might be ostracized from communities or disliked by their family and peers. They present themselves and their beliefs honestly and without shame, and encourage their children to do the same, even if it results in pushback or anger from others. While it could certainly be argued that Rex and Rose Mary do not use their intelligent minds and confident, unwavering spirits to their highest potential, their refusal to adhere to the limiting guidelines of society shows a definite strength of character.