Educated Analysis

  • Tara Westover's coming-of-age narrative explores the juxtaposition between two worlds: that of her family's insular compound, wherein her father's anti-institutional and deeply religious ideas dictate life, and that of the outside world. Her path leads her from the former to the latter, and in doing so she must confront and dismantle the limited story she was told as a child.
  • It is Tara's curiosity that transforms her life. Her thirst for knowledge pushes her to challenge family orthodoxy and broaden her understanding of the world. This process is self-generative in that the more she learns, the more her curiosity is fueled.

Analysis

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Tara Westover is a self-educated woman who broke free from an isolated childhood to gain knowledge of the world around her and forge an identify for herself. She grew up in a fundamentalist Mormon family in Idaho with survivalist parents who devoted their lives to preparing for the apocalypse. As head of the family, her father considered it his duty to protect his children from outside forces and prevent them from being brainwashed by ideas from the outside world. Tara’s father clings to his beliefs, as if protecting his family, in his way, infuses his life with purpose. He rejects the government, the schools, the doctors, the law, and any and every influence from the secular world and mainstream society. He even avoids contact with his extended family. His family’s only social outlet is the church.

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The book is a testament to this woman’s strength and her determination to rebel against the restrictions of her upbringing, break out of her isolated world, and expand her knowledge of the world around her. Educated is both a self-analysis and an act of invention, as Tara’s insatiable thirst for knowledge transformed her. It took her on both a physical journey to gain an education and a psychological journey of self-discovery. The acquisition of knowledge led Tara to invent herself as a person—a person who is a part of a world she knew nothing about as a child.

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