Tara Westover’s memoir, Educated, recollects stories from her childhood in a strict mormon home. Tara and her siblings were not allowed to attend school, receive birth certificates, or work outside the home until they were old enough to leave. They strictly work in their father’s junkyard and receive a poor education from their mother. Most of society doesn’t have a clue that they exist. In her memoir, the beginning paragraphs of chapter twenty provide readers with insight into the distance between Tara and the real world.
To begin, Tara only associates with her family and church. She wasn’t allowed to go out and make friends until she was in the play “Annie”(84). There, at the “Worm Creek Opera House” she met Charles (85). Charles is her “first friend from that other world” (174). She references him as her “first friend” which highlights the strict social rules that her father uses to dictate his house (174). He deemed the world as a sinful and crude place, and it was his goal to instill that into his children too. It is evident that he has tried to engrave those ideas in Tara because she associates everybody else with “that other world” (174). This provides readers with one paradigm of the distance between Tara and the world around her.
Not only does Tara live a detained life, but she lives differently. She dresses only in loose clothing, and showers once or twice a week. In addition to learning from her parents, the only medical assistance provided is by her mother. To Tara, the world is “conventional” (174). More importantly, Charles is “conventional in all the ways and for all the reasons my father despised” (174). Charles lives the life of a normal teenager. He goes to school, goes out places, and he dresses like everybody else. To Tara, conventional is uncomfortable, and to her father, conventional is a sin. In consonance with the manner in which Tara references Charles as “conventional”, readers can infer that she is confused as to what to believe. She never stated that she believed Charles was conventional, but rather Charles was conventional in her father’s lens.
Tara is caught between two opposing worlds. Tara said that she “couldn’t reconcile his world with mine” (pg. 174). It is evident that she spends time with Charles, and it isn’t a problem or she wouldn’t approach him. The problem is with Charles and her family, but more importantly, her brother Shawn. Shawn leaves out no effort when attempting to make Tara look bad in front of Charles. He will reference to her as things like “wilbur” or “fish eyes” to insult her (pg. 176). It is indisputable that Shawn has a problem and will stop at next to nothing display it. Tara is a puppet being pulled by two different strings: the string of happiness and the string of family.
In summary, the beginning of chapter twenty spotlights the distance between Tara and the real world. She was raised in an unconventional, strict mormon home, and even as a teenager, Tara is caught in figuring out what she believes and if she wants to submit to her father and brother or adventure out and choose her life.
Westover, Tara. Educated. Thorpe, Charnwood, 2018.