Please wait while we process your payment
If you don't see it, please check your spam folder. Sometimes it can end up there.
Don’t have an account?
Create Your Account
Sign up for your FREE 7-day trial
Already have an account? Log in
Choose Your Plan
$4.99/month + tax
$24.99/year + tax
Save over 50% with a SparkNotes PLUS Annual Plan!
for a group?
Get Annual Plans at a discount when you buy 2 or more!
$18.74 /subscription + tax
Subtotal $37.48 + tax
on 2-49 accounts
on 50-99 accounts
Want 100 or more?
for a customized plan.
You'll be billed after your free trial ends.
7-Day Free Trial
Renews February 11, 2023
February 4, 2023
Discounts (applied to next billing)
This is not a valid promo code.
(one code per order)
SparkNotes Plus subscription is $4.99/month or $24.99/year as selected above. The free trial period is the first 7 days of your subscription. TO CANCEL YOUR SUBSCRIPTION AND AVOID BEING CHARGED, YOU MUST CANCEL BEFORE THE END OF THE FREE TRIAL PERIOD. You may cancel your subscription on your Subscription and Billing page or contact Customer Support at email@example.com. Your subscription will continue automatically once the free trial period is over. Free trial is available to new customers only.
For the next 7 days, you'll have access to awesome PLUS stuff like AP English test prep, No Fear Shakespeare translations and audio, a note-taking tool, personalized dashboard, & much more!
You’ve successfully purchased a group discount. Your group members can use the joining link below to redeem their group membership. You'll also receive an email with the link.
Members will be prompted to log in or create an account to redeem their group membership.
Thanks for creating a SparkNotes account! Continue to start your free trial.
Your PLUS subscription has expired
Throughout the memoir, Mom and Dad claim that their hands-off parenting style will contribute to the ultimate betterment of their children because danger and hardship build character and resilience. While nothing can justify their parents’ neglect, the children’s hard fight for survival doubtlessly helps them later in life, making it frustratingly difficult to entirely dismiss Mom and Dad’s assertion. We see this philosophy play out when Dad throws Jeannette in the Hot Pot over and over until she figures out how to swim. While Jeannette reacts with fear and anger immediately after this swimming lesson, Dad points out that she did, in fact, learn how to swim, implying that a positive result justifies the short-term trauma. Ultimately, the suffering caused by their parents’ recklessness produces the very qualities Jeannette and Lori need to move to New York City and create thriving careers out of nothing. For example, Jeannette’s experiences fighting bullies on the streets of Welch prepare her to face muggers in the South Bronx. John’s admiration of Jeannette’s scar also evokes this philosophy because he believes that this physical proof of suffering signifies her strength. In this way, the hardship Jeannette went through also helps her find love and acceptance.
Read more about the theme of gaining strength through hardship in Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun.
According to Mom’s philosophy, extending compassion to a person who has been through trauma requires allowing them to take their anger out on you without consequence. As it relates to her marriage, Mom’s her way of showing compassionate acceptance of Dad’s alcoholism means accepting the life of poverty, instability, physical danger, and starvation he inflicts upon the family. Mom encourages similar behavior when she reminds Jeannette that Billy Deel comes from a broken home and deserves kindness. Accordingly, Jeannette tries to show compassion by accepting Billy’s affection, which leads to him shooting a BB gun at her and her siblings. Jeannette begins to reject this conditioning when she refuses to forgive Erma for her racist opinions and abuse. When Uncle Stanley molests Jeannette, she doesn’t take Mom’s advice to allow his attacks simply because he’s lonely, but prioritizes her safety and avoids him. By the end of the memoir, Jeannette has learned to extend empathy without putting herself in danger, as evidenced by her continued relationship with her parents. While she continues to see them, she doesn’t allow them to live with her, both accepting them for who they are and protecting herself.
Jeannette explores the way abusive relationships create a self-perpetuating cycle of abuse across generations. For example, Mom points out that many of the frightening people they meet, such as Billy Deel, come from broken households and abusive situations, meaning that their bad home lives contributed to their violent characters. Dad’s family in particular demonstrates the way abuse gets passed on through generations. Erma drinks constantly, suggesting that alcoholism runs in the family. When Dad takes Erma’s side after she molests Brian, the children deduce that Erma likely sexually abused Dad. Uncle Stanley also demonstrates sexually predatory behavior, implying that he also may have been a victim. However, Mom reveals that the chain of abuse did not begin with Erma. Orphaned as a young child, Erma lived with a string of aunt and uncles who mistreated her for the rest of her childhood, and she took her pent-up rage out on her own children. This tragic pattern of abusers begetting abusers demonstrates the cyclical nature of abuse. When Jeannette and Lori protect Brian from Erma and refuse to ignore what happened, they offer us hope that the cycle can be broken.
Read more about generational trauma in August Wilson’s Fences.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Glass Castle!