Freshman Studies Office

Summer Reading Essay Contest

Summer Reading Essay Contest 2013

The Glass Castle is Jeannette Walls' 2005 memoir, the story of her sometimes adventurous and often dysfunctional childhood.  The book tracks the Walls family's literal journey through the United States, settling briefly (and sometimes very briefly) in communities in California, Arizona and West Virginia before finally ending up in New York City, as well as their emotional journey through the obstacles and hardships that seem to define their family.  Reflecting on their years together, Jeannette Walls narrates her personal role in her family's adventures, facing a constant battle between her desire to transcend her roots and her deep love for her unique and tightly bonded family.

At one point in The Glass Castle, the Walls family finds itself stranded in the desert with birds circling overhead, and Jeannette begins to view their old pet buzzard, Buster, in a different light.  She reflects, empathizing with Buster's troubles: "Too much hard luck can create a permanent meanness of spirit in any creature" (120).   In your opinion, do continuous obstacles and hardships create a "meanness of spirit" within a person?  In your own experience, are people generally able to transcend the limits of their surroundings to overcome those obstacles and hardships?  If so, what do you think accounts for their resilience?  Compare your own thoughts and experiences to those of the characters within The Glass Castle.

Respond in an essay of 2-3 pages, typed and double-spaced in 12-point font.  Quotes used from the book must include page numbers.

Entries must be postmarked by July 29, 2013, and mailed to:

Professor Elizabeth Hoehn, M.A.
Freshman Studies Mentor
Seton Hall University
400 South Orange Avenue
South Orange, NJ 07079
Or you can email your entry to Professor Hoehn at

Prizes include:
  • 1 First Place Winner will receive a $400 gift card to the SHU bookstore
  • 2 Honorable Mentions will receive a $100 gift card to the SHU bookstore
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