Analysis Of Tara Westover's Memoir, Educated | Teen Ink

Analysis Of Tara Westover's Memoir, Educated

November 30, 2022
By Mstaiano GOLD, South Setauket, New York
Mstaiano GOLD, South Setauket, New York
12 articles 7 photos 3 comments

Favorite Quote:
‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎‎ θ
I have ‎ ∫ [f(x)]dx ‎ friends
‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎‎ ‎ θ

What is knowledge? What is ignorance? Why do people think the way they do? Around the year 375 B.C.E, one of the most critical thinkers of his time believed that life is like being chained up in a cave, forced to watch shadows flitting across a stone wall. Plato’s Allegory of the Cave illustrated the struggles of being a philosopher seeking to educate the public while the majority of people were not only satisfied with lives of ignorance, but militantly opposed to the revelation of their conformity. 

Of course, this allegory would not be so popular today if it was not timeless. Uncertainty has always differentiated humans from other animals; it is what signifies curiosity, open-mindedness, and the admirable ability to challenge the status quo. It is the reluctance of accepting conventional thought that pushes a society to its ideological limits and allows it to relish in a unique identity. While an absolute sense of certainty in one’s beliefs may have the potential to propel people towards unprecedented degrees of greatness, one’s beliefs and perceptions of reality are not complete until they are engrossed in suspicion.

Such ideas are emphasized in Tara Westover’s memoir Educated, in which she communicates the way her entire world had been turned upside-down in the waking moments of her life away from her dysfunctional home. Since childhood, Westover had been raised under her father’s tightly clenched fist and she would go on to learn and relearn two fundamentals: the first, that a life of radical faith in God and isolation is the surest form of protection from the dangers of society’s mental slavery; and second, that because her father could hear the voice of God, his beliefs and decisions are final and irrefutable, so all her father’s words must also be her own. However, when she matures and goes off to study historiography at Cambridge she is introduced to a trove of people and places more diverse and advanced than she could have imagined. It is newfound independence that has her entertain the idea that her father could be wrong, and that from the fruits of her new understanding she could construct her own world to live in based on her own doctrine. Having been deprived of schooling by her father, Westover is fascinated by the concept of education and the possibility that reality is more complex than her father has led her to believe. She develops a sense of identity separate from her home in the mountains of Idaho and sometimes separate from the people she has grown to admire beyond the borders of her country. Westover demonstrates the prosperity that accompanies doubt, with the intention of encouraging the youth to challenge what they have been taught and construct their own values.

The ability to recraft one’s perception of the world and of themselves into a unique and distinguishable piece is one that I myself have grown accustomed to; because I have an identity that tends to receive backlash from a society that does not fully understand me. Peers have approached me with related questions they have stockpiled, and as much as I would be thrilled to explain all the ins and outs of the entire culture behind this identity and how it has radiated throughout life, I can only give them what I like to call the “Cliffs Notes version”.

I am bisexual. That label has one-too-many connotations. “You can only be gay or straight, pick a side!”, “I don’t think that’s real, are you really sure?”, and, “isn’t your partner afraid you’ll cheat on them?” ring quite loudly in my ears; and Texas and Florida’s unjust Don’t Say Gay legislation only makes these voices roar louder. From shamelessly heteronormative media imposed by the majority of society, I was forced into a bandwagon claiming that individuals like me should not be allowed to exist unless they are straightened out, and with enough mental gymnastics I began to shape these words into my own. Eventually I caught on to the realization that due to my “romantic fluidity” I can disguise myself as straight as long as my passing relationship is with a girl. However, from LGBTQ+ sources I learned that the use of conformity as a means of escape from one’s identity is not just unhealthy but suicidal. I actually found these sources rather enlightening, similarly to Westover’s experiences in the outside world. Through self-education I discovered that I am nothing like the selfish degenerate I was told bisexuals naturally are, and I could have come to terms with my identity sooner if I had just questioned the articifial perceptions I had derived from humanity’s biased principles. Similarly to Westover, my beliefs became submerged in doubt, allowing me to transcend the labels placed upon me. Modern society follows a strict doctrine based on outdated values of tradition that do more harm than good, so one must have the logical capacity to adopt counter-ideologies in order to reach success. If there were more skeptical people on Earth, there would be more healthy and accomplished people on Earth. 

Despite these experiences, there are people who still believe that having certainty in one’s beliefs is the true origin of success. 1960s America, the site of the Civil Rights Movement, introduced a multitude of determined minority leaders, namely Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez. Both were stubborn in their value of human life and made clear that violence was never an option when planning demonstrations advocating for racial justice. Following King’s assassination, Chavez made a speech to his supporters emphasizing the importance of placing human lives in high regard. It would not be an overstatement to say that his motivational words augmented the values of King’s followers, but what can be easy to overlook is the fact that he had also endangered the lives of his radical supporters. Chavez incited nonviolent protests that were so innately defenseless that white conservatives had no trouble knocking them down, resulting in the deaths of protestors. In maintaining continuity in his belief in not killing, Chavez unknowingly jeopardized the safety of his followers, having them provoke masses of racists without granting them the privilege of going against their values for the sake of self-defense. It was due to the stubbornness of his values that his words were not flexible enough to adapt to such a situation, confirming that radical views lacking in uncertainty fail to propel people to their goals. In many circumstances, one must reconsider their beliefs and values in order to succeed.

No matter the occasion, it is important to at least consider entertaining one’s ideas with a measure of doubt. Not only is this idea preached by historians, but also by the ancient thinkers to whom those historians commit their study. It is evident that the world would not be as socially and politically advanced as it is today if its most influential figures had not practiced rational suspicion, and that humanity could continue to advance if these practices continue. When we restrict ourselves to the narrow-minded assumptions of reality that others place upon us, we are unable to rise to our peaks and break from the grasp of conformity; and despite the lack of support one might receive for pointing out the faults in our society’s reasoning, it is imperative that we continue to foster this sense of individuality until those who are used to rejecting the enlightened finally begin to question if there is more to existence than the bleak shadow it casts along the walls of the cave.

Similar Articles


This article has 0 comments.