Adeline Walls Falling Leaves Analysis

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Without a stable family, life for Jeannette Walls and Adeline Yen Mah was disastrous. Though they both come from different cultural backgrounds, they share similar experiences of a tragic childhood. In Yen Mah’s autobiography, Falling Leaves, she recaps her life in a disunited family under a strict step-mother, Niang. Yen Mah tries desperately to distance herself from Niang by traveling to America, only to realize she can never free herself from her childhood pain. While Adeline came from a wealthy family in China, Jeannette Walls experienced a life with a disunited, poor family. In Walls’s Glass Castle, her father’s drinking problems and her mother’s selfish nature caused Jeannette to live a poor, unstable life that led her to start a new…show more content…
In Falling Leaves, Niang continues to give a false sense of hope to Adeline, only to shatter it in the end. For example, when Niang decided to put Adeline in boarding school, she “patted” Adeline, and Adeline comments that it was “the first and last time, she ever touched me” (Yen Mah 100). Because Adeline suffered a miserable childhood under Niang, she takes joy from small things, such as Niang’s comforting physical contact with her. However, Niang crumbled Adeline’s slight moment of delight after realizing that Niang only touched her to display the love between them to the nuns. By doing so, Yen Mah is able to depict how Niang cared more about what her peers thought of her rather than what her step-daughter thought of her. Though Adeline had an awful start in her life in boarding school, Niang continued to diminish her happiness. In the boarding school, Adeline saw other students’ eggs as “symbols of rare privilege,” and they distinguished the students into groups of “loved ones and the unloved ones” (Yen Mah 101,102). Because Adeline did not receive eggs in addition to her daily breakfast, she saw that none of her family members loved her enough to show that they have not forgotten about her. With this envy toward the fortunate students, she also builds animosity toward her family because the family continues to deny her importance in the family by leaving her eggless. After suffering through her unrequited love for her family, Adeline’s hope for a united family slowly wears away. While the Yen family dragged down Adeline’s efforts and dreams to create peace within the family, Rex dragged Jeannette’s efforts down. Since Rex was an unstable man who would do anything to gain his children’s respect and support, he tells Jeannette that “I’ll die trying” to quit his drinking problem to

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