Educated - A Memoir
Tara Westover

by

Sharon Fleming

Themes
Themes are described as ideas that dominate a particular piece of literature. In almost all cases, pieces of literature will be centered a theme or a number of them.
Religion

Religion is a driving force behind Westover’s father’s identity, and thus, at the center of the book. It serves as the main reason why Westover’s father prevented his children from going to school or engaging in conventional methods of care. He firmly believes that the Illuminati run the public school system and that people need to avoid schools at all cost. He also prophesizes the end of the world as the new Millennium approaches. Despite his great disappointment when then end of the world failed to come at the end of 1999, he still held onto the view that the end was coming soon (Farrington). The September 11, 2001 attack on the twin towers in New York reinforce his beliefs, and he uses the tragedy to remind people, including his family, that the end of the world is near and to prepare themselves. When his daughter, Audrey, got married, she follows the ideas instilled by her father and shuns the public school system (MacGillis 4). Instead, she chooses to educate her children at home. She also does not take her children to the hospital but, rather, enjoys to give them natural drugs, which she believes, are not corrupted in any way.

The Value of School

Westover’s life is defined by her academic experiences. For much of her childhood, she had been denied access to basic education due to her father’s religious beliefs. All the children in her family did not have a chance to go to school while young (The New York Times 33), however, encouraged by her brother Tyler, Westover enrolled in BYU from which she would eventually transfer to Cambridge University.

From that point onwards, she reflects on the experiences that she had at the various academic institutions as well as the interaction that she had with her family members in between academic semesters (MacGillis 4). She was able to study up to the doctorate level but was unable to finish her Ph.D. classes, owing to the great challenges she experienced from her family conflicts. It is through schooling that Westover was able to recognize the enormous damage that her parents had inflicted on her and her siblings by preventing them from interacting with the rest of society. From education, she had become enlightened and was able to seek proper life for herself.

Patriarchy

Patriarchy is a recurring theme in the book as a result of Westover’s father playing such a key role in controlling the entire family. For instance, he bars his children from going to school and forces his family to avoid conventional medicine because he believes drugs are adulterated and, therefore, not fit for human consumption (O’Kelly np). He also forces his wife to become a midwife against her wishes.  He also exerts his power over his daughter Audrey, whom he forces to get married early in life. Due to his controlling nature, his family had to obey whatever he asked them to do, even in situations where they may not agree with him.

Patriarchy is also an evident theme in the situation where Westover’s brother, Shawn threatens both Audrey and Westover, claiming he will kill them. His overbearing character against his sisters shows that he believes he is more powerful than them because he is a man. When Westover complains to her father, he reprimands her for raising allegations against Shawn without having any evidence in hand. This interaction is also deemed to be an apparent show of patriarchy where the voice of women is not heard or respected. Westover appears to be saddened by such events when her father does not listen to her or seem to even care about her. It is this rocky relationship they share that makes Westover keep a distance from her parents.

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