Liz Murray would define homelessness as the pit into which she was born; Murray Barr would define homelessness the quicksand that he could not escape. Liz was born into a family so besotted with addiction and instability that it could not sustain itself as a unit. Obviously, the primary people at fault were Liz’s parents, who would sell such necessities as Liz’s sister’s winter coat to get their next fix. Liz’s response to this could have been acceptance, resignation that this was the only way to live. However, she instinctively knew that there was a different way to live – one where people fulfill their responsibilities and live with discipline. She aspires toward that goal and ends up getting a New York Times scholarship to attend Harvard.
Murray Barr could easily be Liz Murray’s father, as far as his behavioral patterns go. Once he leaves the military, he cannot sustain himself without the order and rigidity of military life. The article with his story does not detail his particular experience in the military, but if had combat experience, his story would be like so many veterans who return from war, unable to adjust to the realities of civilian life because of the trauma of fighting. When he is in a treatment program, with clear expectations, he thrives; if he had someone to be in charge of him, it is likely that he would not have died in the way that he did. From the way that he called the people who helped him his “angels,” it’s clear that he knew something of his limitations but lacked the ability to overcome them. Luckily for Liz, she did not emerge from her own desperate situation without the tools to succeed.
Gladwell, Malcolm. “Million-Dollar Murray.” The New Yorker 13 February 2006.
Siebert, Al. “From Homeless to Harvard.” Web. Retrieved 21 October 2011 at