Tara Westover’s Educated provides a detailed look into her home life and her journey to earn, you guessed it, an education.Throughout her memoir, Tara recounts both her struggles and her successes. Once Tara enrolls in college, she discovers that she can make her own choices and experience life beyond the mysterious mountains that she calls her home.
Throughout her memoir, Tara explains that her family isn’t like most apple pie families. While most parents are sending their children to the local school or taking them to practice for the sport they play, Tara’s parents make her work in a junkyard, stock shelves in preparation for the end of the world, and teach her about herbs and midwifing. She also has never really left her home, except to go to her grandparents’ homes and to get a job in town. In chapter 9 “Perfect in His Generations”, Tara writes about auditioning for the lead role in Annie. She begins by saying “I’d never learned how to talk to people who weren’t like us — people who went to school and visited the doctor. Who weren’t preparing, every day, for the End of the World.” (85-86) This ultimately shows that this experience was Tara’s first time interacting with people in a communal setting. She has had conversations with a few people outside of her family, but this is one of her first experiences in the real world.
Once Tara enrolls herself in college, she has more experiences outside of her home that both frighten her and allow her to learn more than what her parents ever taught her. She has been so secluded her whole life, that she does not know what typical subjects and materials are. In chapter 17 “Keep it Holy”, Tara stumbles across an unfamiliar word. When she asks for clarification, she is seen as rude and insensitive. She writes “I stayed in my seat until everyone had gone, pretending the zipper on my coat was stuck so I could avoid looking anyone in the eye. Then I went straight to the computer lab to look up the word “Holocaust” (157). The reader is able to feel Tara’s embarrassment and confusion through the page. This shows that Tara’s knowledge is expanding and she is spreading her wings.
After Tara realizes that college is harder to grasp than she realized, she also realizes that she might not be able to pay for another semester of schooling. She does research on how she can earn scholarships, but to her dismay, she must have an almost perfect GPA. She struggles in some of her classes, but some se performs rather decent in. One class that she struggled in was English. In chapter 18 “Blood and Feathers”, Westover writes “My teacher said I had a knack for writing but that my language was oddly formal and stilted. I didn’t tell her that I’d learned to read and write by reading only the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and speeches by Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.” Again, this shows that Tara wasn’t raised like other children. Most children read picture books when they are learning how to read, but Tara read very high level pieces of writing. This could be seen as beneficial, but her language would be affected, like her teacher mentioned.
To conclude, Tara’s upbringing ultimately makes it difficult for her to make friends and to fit in. People don’t see her as normal and some people even see her as disgusting. However, the experiences described shows how Tara’s character develops over the course of her memoir. She started out as an isolated girl with no real sense into the outside world, but now she is opening up and becoming the woman she is really supposed to be.
Westover, Tara. Educated. Random, 2018.