In Hillbilly Elegy, how did Vance’s life change when his mother moved the family to Middletown?

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caroline-harrison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Hillbilly Elegy, Vance identifies the move to a rural area as a major turning point in his life. When his mother moved the family away from Middletown, young Vance was separated from his grandparents, an arrangement he found very difficult. Shortly after the move, Vance’s mother, Bev, began to fight with Bob, her third husband. Their fights were frequent and often escalated into violence. Bev began to use drugs more heavily, and this only worsened Vance’s home life. Vance began to do poorly in school, in large part due to the stressful atmosphere at home. One day, Bev crashed her car—a suspected suicide attempt. Shortly after this incident, Bev took the kids and moved back to Middletown, leaving Bob. However, life continued to be chaotic, and Vance recalls how his mother once got so angry at him that she pulled over the car in order to beat him. Scared, young Vance ran from the car and called the police. Bev was arrested, but Vance was urged to lie at his mother’s trial to keep her out of jail. After this incident, Vance began splitting his time between his mother’s house and his grandparents’ house. According to Vance, his success later in life is largely due to his grandparents’ intervention and influence during this turbulent period of his childhood.

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Hillbilly Elegy

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