Should I Stay or Should I Go?

In Tara Westover’s memoir, Educated, she describes her experiences in growing up with a survivalist family whose religious beliefs strictly dictated the family life. With a father who distrusts the government, education system, and medical establishments, Tara lives a life isolated from the rest of society and the world. When one of her brothers, Tyler, makes the decision to leave the family in search of education, Tara begins to question everything her family stands for and considers following in Tyler’s footsteps. She contemplates staying with her family enduring the abuse from her brother Shawn and the recklessness of her father or embracing the unknown in an attempt to become educated in the things Tara’s family raised her to fear. This is a monumental decision Tara must make that defines who she is and tests the bonds of loyalty to her family. By analyzing the symbolism in a vision Tara has about her future, one might come to find that despite what Tara may tell herself, she has always subconsciously wanted to escape the treacherous confines of her family in search of knowledge. 

In the chapter “No More a Child”, Tara experiences a sort of vision where she sees herself in the future in her parents’ house pregnant with a child. With dreams and visions oftentimes being regarded as a gateway into the mind’s true desires, it is safe to say the desires of the Tara in the vision will reflect and closely resemble the aspirations of Tara outside of the vision. With that being said, rather than asking her midwife mother for help with birthing the baby, Tara in the vision “[takes] her mother’s hand and [says] she [wants] the baby delivered in a hospital, by a doctor” in which her mother agrees (132). This is a significant decision Tara defiantly makes in the vision that blatantly goes against the beliefs of her father indicating that Tara has already subconsciously made up her mind on which life she wants to live. It is important to note that this vision occurs before she questions whether she truly wants to become “a wolf among sheep” by attending college (147). Furthermore, the presence of a baby in the vision is characteristic of her desire to embrace the unknown by attending college. When considering Tara’s past in helping her midwife mother, it is apparent that she knows first-hand of the uncertainty accompanying the birthing process. In terms of the vision, Tara being pregnant symbolizes the uncertainty she has cultivated in the form of a baby. Similarly, her desire to have a child in a hospital symbolizes her will to give in to this uncertainty despite not knowing the consequences. 

As the vision progresses, the pregnant Tara moves to leave the house, presumably heading towards the hospital but is stopped by her father. Tara “draw[s] to herself all his conviction, all his weightiness … set[s] him aside and move[s] through the door”, overcoming the influence of her father (132). With her mind made up, Tara acts upon her decision and physically stands up to her father in the vision. This reflects the strong will she has to carry out her desire to make something more of her life in seeking an education. In a symbolic sense, Tara’s father standing in the way, represents a sturdy barrier to the outside world, not unlike the surrounding mountain landscape that envelops the everyday life of the Westover’s on Buck’s Peak. Moreover, Tara’s father represents the family’s loyalty and obedience that strives to keep Tara grounded at home. In the vision, her father seems to be giving her one last chance to turn around and right her traitorous acts. As can be seen, Tara has indeed managed to overcome this last obstacle demonstrating that she has already decided to carry out her plans for college.

Westover’s vision ends with her recognizing the fact that she must choose between her family and the education she desires. However, when considering the vision, it is apparent that Westover has already subconsciously made this choice. By analyzing the symbolism in Tara Westover’s vision, readers experience both Tara’s will to embrace the unknown with her decision to go to a hospital, as well as her desire to act upon her decision by standing up to her father. In doing this, Tara has figuratively removed herself from the toxicity of her family and opened the door to a world of opportunity through the acquisition of education.

My Literary Analysis draft.

Works Cited

Westover, Tara. Educated. Random, 2018.


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