Educated By Tara Westover

Tara knows very little, on the other hand, about her father ’s childhood. She knows that despite the views he developed about women’s duties to homemaking and family, Grandma-down-the-hill actually worked in town while he was growing up, and that Gene spent a good deal of time in town, too—Gene and Faye met at a local bowling alley. Tara believes that Faye, sick of “contorting herself. “Tara Westover is living proof that some people are flat-out, boots-always-laced-up indomitable. Her new book, Educated, is a heartbreaking, heartwarming, best-in-years memoir about striding beyond the limitations of birth and environment into a better life. ★★★★ out of four.”—USA Today. Shawn and Emily get engaged, and to celebrate, Tara goes with them on a long horse ride to camp at a lake twenty miles away. Tara and Emily share a tent, and as they lie together in the dark, Emily asks Tara about Shawn’s “problems.” Tara is about to tell Emily that she shouldn’t marry Shawn, but Emily begins talking about how Shawn is a “spiritual man” who has been called by God. Educated by Tara Westover is sure to become a modern classic. Educated is an account of Tara Westover's life as part of a Mormon funadmentalist family living in Idaho. Her father becomes increasingly radical, her brother Shawn grows to be increasingly abusive, and her mother is either unable or chooses not to protect her. Educated is primarily retrospective, consisting of Tara Westover's memories about her past. She tells the story of the events of her life from a vantage point in her late twenties, occasionally interjecting to comment on the process of trying to arrive at an accurate version of the past.

  1. Educated By Tara Westover Summary
  2. Educated Book Club Questions

Summary: Chapter 23

Tara is asked out on dates by several men in her church congregation, but she turns them down. As a result, she is called into a meeting with the bishop. Noticing that something is wrong, the bishop asks Tara to keep meeting with him. To her surprise, she starts to talk openly with him about her life and her family.

When the semester ends, Tara needs to go home and work. The bishop recommends she stay away, offering to give her money for her rent, but Tara insists on returning. The bishop does get her to promise that she will not work for her father, so Tara returns to working at the grocery store instead. As a result, she returns to school with much less money than she needs. Two weeks into the semester, she comes down with severe tooth pain that requires expensive dental work. Her parents offer to lend her the money on the condition she works for them next summer, and she refuses to do so. Tara tries to ignore the pain.

Learning about the suffering Tara endures, the bishop suggests she apply for a grant or take money from the church, but she refuses to do either. Tara spends a desperate semester barely scraping by, and by Christmas break, she has no money left. She plans to move to Las Vegas to live with her brother Tony. Then, Shawn surprises Tara by giving her just enough money to return to school in January. Still, Tara can barely pay her bills, even with a second job, and the bishop keeps urging her to apply for a grant. Finally, Tara submits the application. She receives a grant and, for the first time, feels financially secure. She also knows she will not need to work for her father ever again.

Summary: Chapter 24

With her financial problems resolved, Tara focuses on her studies again. Based on a lecture in her psychology class, she begins to suspect that her father is mentally ill. This idea also leads her to research the shooting of the Weaver family at Ruby Ridge. Her father has always told her this story in the context of a family having been mercilessly killed by federal agents after refusing to send their children to school. Tara learns that while family members, including children, were killed, the conflict was triggered by Weaver's involvement in white nationalist movements. Her father's paranoid delusions caused him to completely misinterpret events.

Tara begins to research and write about bipolar disorder. She becomes much angrier, and eventually confronts her father about the way his behavior has impacted her life. She stays in Utah for the summer. She moves to an apartment, interns at a law firm, and starts dating a man named Nick. When she falls ill, Nick insists she see a doctor. Tara is prescribed antibiotics and tells her mother, who is disappointed with her for turning to scientific medicine. The next morning, Audrey calls to tell Tara that their father has been in a serious accident.

Summary: Chapter 25

Educated By Tara Westover Summary

Tara reflects on a family story. When her grandfather was seriously injured while working alone on the mountain, angels came to help him and saved his life. Her father has been injured in an accident where a fuel tanker exploded, and has suffered severe burns to his face and fingers. Tara goes to Idaho, horrified by her father's condition. Against all odds, Gene slowly begins to recover.

This is a sample rhetorical analysis written for an AP English Language and Composition class. In a rhetorical analysis, one is given a passage to analyze, specifically looking at the techniques the author uses to develop his/her argument.

I obtained a mark of 6/6 on this essay, and my teacher left the following comment:

“Veronica, This is a RA to be proud of. You articulate your insights persuasively, in a manner that would hold its own in any post-secondary class.”


Source: Educated, by Tara Westover, pg. 113

I was fifteen and I felt it, felt the race I was running with time. My body was changing, bloating, swelling, stretching, bulging. I wished it would stop, but it seemed my body was no longer mine. It belonged to itself now, and cared not at all how I felt about these strange alterations, about whether I wanted to stop being a child, and become something else.

That something else thrilled and frightened me. I’d always known that I would grow differently than my brothers, but I’d never thought about what that might mean. Now it was all I thought about. I began to look for cues to understand this difference, and once I started looking, I found them everywhere.

One Sunday afternoon, I helped Mother prepare a roast for dinner. Dad was kicking off his shoes, and loosening his tie. He’d been talking since we left the church.
“That hemline was three inches about Lori’s knee,” Dad said. “What’s a woman thinking when she puts on a dress like that?” Mother nodded absent while chopping a carrot. She was used to this particular lecture.


“And Jeanette Barney,” Dad said. “If a woman wears a blouse that low-cut, she ought not to bend over.” Mother agreed. I pictured the turquoise blouse Janette had worn that day. The neckline was only an inch below her collarbones, but it was loose fitting, and I imagined that if she bent it would give a full view. As I thought this I felt anxious, because although a tighter blouse would have made Jeanette’s bending more modest, the tightness itself would have been less modest. Righteous women do not wear tight clothing. Other women do that.


In her memoir Educated, author Tara Westover describes her childhood in a family with extreme Mormon beliefs and how its clash with her experience with formal education in university allowed her to see herself and the society around her in a different light. In the given passage, Westover looks at a specific example of her family’s Mormonism: the expected behaviour of women. Through the connotations of her specific word choice, use of past tense, and conversational tone, Westover demonstrates that she has gained the mental distance to recognize that her father’s claims are unfounded.

In the first paragraph, Westover describes how her body changes through puberty, asserting that it was “changing, bloating, swelling, stretching, bulging” (Westover 2). Westover expresses her body’s change with various words with slightly different meanings, which allows her audience to paint a more vivid picture in their heads. However, the words Westover chooses to use, such as “bloating,” “swelling,” and “bulging,” contain negative connotations; these words are often associated with deformities. Through her specific word choice, Westover reinforces that these body changes are unwelcome. Moreover, by omitting conjunctions and using asyndeton, Westover creates a quicker pace within this phrase. This change of pace can reflect how quickly Westover’s own body was changing, a sentiment that was further expressed in this paragraph. In doing so, Westover allows the audience to more clearly view Westover’s past experiences through her eyes. By creating sympathy, her audience is thus more likely to trust Westover’s perspective and consider her main argument throughout the remainder of the passage: that she is able to now recognize the unreasonable expectations of her childhood.

Westover accomplishes this through her use of past tense. For instance, she says that “I wished it would stop, but it seemed that my body was no longer mine” (Westover 2). The audience is aware that Westover is now an adult, and that Educated in a memoir; thus, the separation she presents as a narrator and as a character in this story demonstrates that she was able move on from her past perspective. Through her use of tense, Westover shows that she says, does, and thinks are in the past, and do not necessarily apply to her present self; she has been able to move on. As the beliefs of her childhood are likely not held by her audience, showing that she no longer holds those beliefs is important in gaining her audience’s trust. Westover also does so by presenting a contradiction in the logic of her father. A woman wearing a loose-fitting blouse would be considered immodest as she bends out, but a tighter blouse in and of itself would be immodest as well. By pointing out this contradiction, Westover also shows how, in the culture of her childhood, there is no way for one to satisfy every tenet of this specific variation of Mormonism; to be “perfect” in the eyes of her father would be nearly impossible. By recognizing this contradiction, Westover shows that she is aware of the fallacies in her father’s line of thinking, and thus that she now has the ability to think for herself, despite her upbringing — an idea that is reflected through her use of tense.

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Throughout the passage, Westover maintains a conservational, albeit serious, tone. Her audience is likely a general one, rather than limited to a specific niche. Thus, Westover’s colloquial tone allows Westover to better connect with her audience. For instance, Tara states that her body “cared not at all how I felt about these strange alterations, about whether I wanted to stop being a child, and become something else.” This sentence resembles a run-on sentence; however, in doing so, Tara writes as if she is speaking aloud, allowing her to be closer to her audience. While Westover’s experience is unique, the sentiments she expresses are ones that are shared by many. For instance, many people feel uncomfortable with changes to their bodies during puberty, or are frustrated by the seemingly unreasonable logic of their parents. While her audience’s experience may not be to the same degree as Westover, by maintaining a conversational tone, Westover creates an atmosphere of openness; her writing feels as if she is confiding in a close friend. Through this particular technique, Westover allows her audience in and builds their trust. Thus, her audience is more likely to believe in Westover’s narratives and the lessons drawn from her story.

Educated Book Club Questions

In this passage from her memoir Educated, Westover expresses the contradictions in her father’s Mormon beliefs. Through her word choice, use of tense and conservational tone, Westover effectively develops a relationship with her audience that allows her to demonstrate that she now is able to recognize the fallacious reasoning behind her father’s beliefs about the modesty of women. In doing so, Westover shows that she has been able to see past the Mormon dogma of her childhood, allowing her a broader perspective.