A Study in Contrasts: Jeanette Walls and Halle Berry


Table of Contents

Compare and Contrast

Jeanette Walls is an American journalist and author worldly known for her former post as gossip columnists for MSNBC. Among her most renowned works is a memoir of her childhood life titled The Glass Castle. Halle Berry, on the other hand, is an award-winning American actress and one of the highest paid in Hollywood. One of her best performances happens to be her role in the romantic drama titled Monster’s Ball for which she won an Academy Award in the year 2002. From the brief description, it is apparent that the two have excelled in their different professions. One commonality, however, is the fact that they are known figures in the United States. Maslow developed a theory of human development for which he proposed five stages of growth namely physiology, safety, love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. The stages describe the growth process of human motivation where an individual moves through. The needs at the top are regarded as the most fundamental and basic and are tied to physiology, the need at the bottom of the pyramid. Therefore, using Maslow’s Theory, this paper will compare and contrast the childhood lives of Jeanette Walls and Halle Berry.

Jeannette Walls was born on April 21, 1960, to Caucasian parents and was their third child. Her father, Rex, was an electrician while her mother Rosemary was an artist (Brennan, 2006). Halle Berry, on the other hand, was born in Cleveland Ohio on August 14, 1966, to an African American father and a Caucasian mother. She was the youngest child of the couple. Her father, Jerome was a hospital attendant, whereas her mother, Judith was a psychiatric nurse (Stone, 2000). Foremost, it is important to note the order of their birth, whereas Walls was the third child, Berry was the youngest. The youngest children in most families receive most favors from their parents and care and attention unlike children born before. Also, Berry might have undergone the stereotyping that is accompanied with the fact that one of her parents was an African American, whereas Walls might have had an easier time associating with peers. In fact, in one interview she affirmed that growing up as a mixed-race child she was insecure and craved attention (Stone, 2000). This was further fuelled by her absentee father as he was raised by her single mother. The lack of self-actualization, esteem, and a need for love and sense of belonging saw Berry participate and top in many activities in her school years. From cheerleading to the honor roll to student senator to writing for the school paper, Berry’s name was associated with success yet she felt that was lacking in some way owing to her mixed-race (Stone, 2000). Walls did not, however, struggle with the issues experienced by mixed-race children as both her parents were Caucasian and she had an easy time assimilating. This was despite the constant relocation by her parents as they never stayed too long in one place (Brennan, 2006). She, like Berry, still was lacking in the sense of belonging as she could not identify with one particular place. Additionally, she suffered from low self-esteem especially in regards to who her parents were. Till after her second marriage, Walls has been ashamed of her upbringing not wanting to reveal to her husband and society alike the kind of people her parents were. This, in a sense, denotes a lack of self-actualization. 

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According to her memoir, The Glass Castle, Walls grew up in an unstable environment with unconventional parents. Whereas her mother was entranced with art and less with parenting, her father was an alcoholic. Having two parents who were centered on their needs left Walls and her siblings in a desperate state as often than not they slept hungry. Interestingly, Walls asserts that her father was a loving parent in spite of his alcoholic nature while her mother was hostile, thus, she and her siblings formed better parent-child relationships with their father (Brennan, 2006). Berry, in contrast, was raised by her single mother as her father was absent throughout her childhood. Unlike Walls, Berry grew up in a stable environment in spite of her mother raising her single handedly. Moreover, following the kind of schools she attended, it is apparent that her mother was financial stable able to provide for her daughter the best of everything. Even though her need to participate in all kinds of activities during her school days was inspired by a need to belong, it is an indicator that her mother, unlike walls, was concerned about her activities and encouraged her to excel in every area. In this regard, it would appear that Berry was a child of privilege her only lack been a mixed race child. Walls, it would appear, had everything against her apart from her loving father. 

Both Berry’s and Walls’ background and upbringing have seemingly influenced their adult lives as both sought success in their different careers. Walls, though fuelled by the need for a stable life and escape from her childhood, has lived her adult life in contrast from that of her childhood. Berry, on the other hand, has since overcome the need for belonging as evidenced by her current lifestyle. A commonality between the two is that in spite of their diverse backgrounds and differing challenges is that they have overcome issues of self-actualization, lack of love and a sense of belonging to become successful individuals in their family lives and career.

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  1. Brennan, C. (2006). Jeannette Walls Biography – life, family, children, parents, story, history, school, mother, book, old, born – Newsmakers Cumulation
  2. Stone, S. (2000). Halle Berry. Hello Magazine
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