Confusing Age

Tara Westover’s memoir Educated tells the story of her growing up in the Idaho Mountains with her strictly religious, anti-government family and how she escaped her lifestyle in order to go to college and become educated. The textual analysis examines chapter fifteen “No More a Child”, in which Tara’s parents, mostly her father, ask her to pay rent, move out and threaten her. This exploration will provide a better understanding of how Tara’s father and mother play a role in her abuse, including emotionally, financially and physically.

Tara’s father is known throughout the book for making and changing his own rules; therefore, it is no surprise he asks Tara to pay a third of her savings to him for rent, after finding out she would use it for college. She is a minor, and consequently her parents have to provide for her, however Tara’s father notices Tara is saving her money and uses the rent as an excuse to make her unable to leave. To the financial abuse Tara responded with obedience; her father wants money, Tara gives him money. She had recently taken the ACT and is now waiting on the results. After another day working in the how junkyard, Tara goes back to the house to find her results; she had scored a twenty-two. She was excited, but when her father, who is strictly against public schools, found out, he lost his composure. He yelled, screamed, and proposed Tara should live on her own, and after discussing the proposal for surviving alone for a few minutes, her mother agreed and asked, “Do you think you can move out by Friday?” Like any sixteen year old, the thought of moving out filled Tara with fear, even panic. Tara describes how something in her broke that day, comparing that something to a dam or a levee. She would be unable to afford the cost of living, especially after recently giving her dad $400 for rent. Tara screamed back at her parents and ran into her room with tears in her eyes. Her mother comes into the room, trying to explain that it might seem unfair, but that she had already been living on her own and had been getting ready to marry Tara’s father at her age. Tara asks shocked, “You were married at sixteen?” to which her mother answered, “Don’t be silly…You are not sixteen….You’re at least twenty…. Aren’t you?” This scene represents how unaware Tara’s parents could be about their children. Parents have a strong impact on children’s mental health; wanting to throw their child out of the house for receiving a good ACT score and then not knowing their daughter’s age is a strong case of emotional abuse. Tara writes that her heart pounded heavily in her chest, indicating her helplessness. Tara tells her mother that she had just turned sixteen in September. As if it were nothing, her mother gets up, smiles, and tells Tara she could stay and explained how hard it is to keep track of her children’s ages. Tara writes about another type of abuse: physical. Following the paying rent, and moving out fiasco, Tara is working in the junkyard, when her father comes home with what he called “the Shear” but Tara describes as the most frightening machine she had ever seen. It did not even take longer than five minutes, before Tara’s brother Luke got his arm caught in it. Tara portrays Luke’s arm as “gashed to the bones”, meaning unfunctional. Tara’s father needed someone else to use the scrap machine, and Tara was his choice. She obeys, starts working with the blade, which is still covered with Luke’s blood, and prays. The prayers were not to avoid injury; Tara was praying for the injury to be like Luke’s. After some time, Shawn, the other brother, came around the corner, only to see Tara being slung through the air. Shawn immediately stops Tara from working with how he called it “the death machine”, and told their father that Tara will not continue working with this machine. Shawn and his father got into a physical fight, after which the father threatens once again, that if Tara does not do as he says, she could live on her own. Out of fear, Tara and Shawn worked the death machine, again submitting to their father’s will. Threatening your child is emotional abuse, but when you are threatening your daughter in order to make her work a deadly machine, it becomes physical abuse.

More and more abuses are brought to light in Tara Westover’s memoir Educated, and by analyzing chapter fifteen indicators to emotional, financial and physical abuse can be found. It is horrible to know that Tara had such bad, uncaring and even abusive parents, though it makes her achievements throughout the book even more remarkable. 

Published by emiliazohmann

18 / NC / Foreign

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1 Comment

  1. Emi, “Confusing Age” presents a thoughtful examination of the abuse that that Tara Westover recounts in her memoir, Educated. Offering a more detailed look at one passage in the memoir where Westover depicts the abuse she suffers and correcting errors of style would strengthen the essay. While Westover experiences emotional and physical abuse, her issues with money are financial hardships rather than abuse.


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