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The Glass Castle

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Natasha Mah

on 30 March 2015

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Transcript of The Glass Castle

The Glass Castle

Jeannette, now living a more privileged than the one she had growing up, attempts to help her parents lift themselves out of poverty. This is crucial as it sets the precedent for how the whole walls family will live throughout their lives together, impoverished but hopeful. This quote also shows the innate human ability to care for the people we know, and can desire to help them, but rarely have the desire to help those whom we do not know. Jeannette previously mentions her parents being to the rest of the world just like the majority of the homeless population, but to her they are different, they are her family. She is willing to help her homeless parents but not the other homeless people she is bound to have seen in New York.

Fire is a reoccurring entity in the Glass Castle. Fire defines the opening conflict for Jeannette, as it literally scars her at a very early age. To face the fire is to face her earliest fear and conquer them. Fire is also symbolic, representing the haphazard and volatile way in which the Walls family lives their lives. Fire follows the family wherever they go, from the trailer, to the hotel, to Jeannette and Brian’s “laboratory” shed. The quote also demonstrates how Jeannette views the dangers surrounding her life, they way an individual deals with threats. She faces the threat head on, rather than running, which her parents are all to accustomed to doing. The fight or flight instinct is critical to human intuition and survival, it allows an individual to assess a situation in a way that utilizes their best developed skills regarding that situation. Jeannette chooses to fight and that decision allows her to overcome her fears.


The Walls family does the skedaddle frequently; it is their coping mechanism for dealing with trouble. Rather than resolve the conflict or make amends, Rex and his family prefer to burn all bridges and leave when no one can stop them. This is key to maintaining their impoverished lifestyle, since they are unable to take all of their possessions and are forced to take only a few select items. Because of their limited space the Walls family leaves many of their investments behind, things like school records and official documents. Often the objects they do take are sentimental, like the bow and arrow set Rose Mary takes or the geode that Jeannette brings. Often the sentimental objects are more important to the characters, and generally to people, than useful items.

“What kind of fools would use store bought table
when they can have these for free”

The quotes demonstrates both the Rex's ingenuity and the families financial state, because they are unable to afford quality furniture he decided to use huge wooden spools that were dumped on the side of the tracks as tables that his family would eat off. Rex also believes that he better than people who shop at stores because he does not waste money. This quote also demonstrates the nature of humans to always justify their short comings as the father is unable to provide furniture for his family he justifies it by stating he is smarter than other people because he does not waste money.
Pages 50-75
Pages 25-50
"As much as Dad liked to tell stories about himself, it was almost impossible to get him to talk about his parents or where he was born. We knew he came from a town called Welch, in West Virginia." Page 26

The importance and irony in this quote towards character development is that it clearly states Rex avoids anything to do with his past/childhood, yet we know there is an entire section of the book titled 'Welch'. This section will contribute to the development of Rex's character thus giving the readers a stronger understanding of his characteristics.
Pages 100-125
" The sodden, burned tree lay smoldering on the floor, we all just stood there. No one tried to wring dad's neck or yell at him or even point out that he'd ruined the Christmas his family had spent weeks planning- the Christmas that was supposed to be the best we'd ever had" (Pg 115)







" I didn't feel like celebrating. After all he's put himself through, I couldn't believe Dad had gone back to the booze" (Pg 123)









"[He] told mom to move aside - he was driving" (Pg 125)



" A year after Lori was born, Mom and Dad had a second daughter, Mary Charlene, who had coal-black hair and chocolate-brown eyes, just like Dad. But Mary Charlene died one night when she was nine months old. Crib death, Mom always said" Page 27

The death of Mary Charlene becomes symbolic when it is made known that Jeanette was born as her 'replacement'. Since the father took the death of Mary Charlene so hard, it reflects the strong bond between Jeanette and Rex.This lets the reader know the justification regarding the bond between Jeanette and her father and justifications behind why he acts in certain ways i.e he started heavily drinking after the death of this child.
Pages 1-25
" How many places have we lived?" I asked Lori.
" That depends on what you mean by lived" she said" ' Page 29
The conversation between the two sisters shows the instability within the family's lifestyle and how some members of the family recognize it as unstable whereas some may not. This is important to the story because it shows how the actions of the parents, mostly the father, impact the rest of the family since they usually do whatever Rex says. This is symbolic to the life each one of the characters is living and suggests that the family members who are tired of it will eventually rebel/ stand up for what they want in life; stability.
" Mom frowned at me. " You'd be destroying what makes it special," she said. "It's the Joshua tree's struggle that gives it beauty." '
Page 38
Through this quote we learn a little more about the mothers character. She explains that she believes that overcoming struggle is representative of beauty. It is reflective of her opinion that all children should be brought up free of restrictions, rules and perfection. Once again this is displayed through the family's constant jumping around without maintaining a permanent residence/job. The struggles that they all go through in their lives will only make them more beautiful, like the Joshua tree.

“Nothing but a minor flesh wound people run to the hospital every time they skin their knees we are becoming a nation of sissies”

This quote illustrates the Rose Mary’s irresponsibility she is clearly putting her children in danger by failing to realize the possibility of infection as Jeanette has been cut by a rusty nail. It demonstrates the flaws in the Rose Marys’s logic and the nature of human beings to make decisions based on assumptions and failing to take into the account the consequences of these decisions and how they will affect them and their loved ones.

“Are you saying that I can’t take care of my
own family?”

In this quote Rex is unaware of his failure as a father because he can’t hold down a job for long and his children are always hungry. He always seems to come up with a logical/elaborate reason for his failures like the FBI is after him but often these reasons are just excuses. This Quote demonstrates the Nature of individuals to always make excuse for their failures rather than trying to improve their lives. This logic is especially harmful when the individual is a parent that has to provide for his children.

The symbolism of the fire is seen once again for the fourth time. With each experience to survive those fires, an emotional scar was left. This particular encounter with fire is one that has scarred the family with the father's careless behavior. The hard work the family put together to celebrate Christmas had been destroyed by the father's uncontrollable alcoholism. This scene reveals that the family will never see sight in hope as long as the father remains with them.


Despite Jeannette being the one to defend her father against Lori and Brian's dismay and complaints having full trust in the father's abilities to uphold their family, here she acknowledges his problematic drinking needs to be removed for the family's stability. This is where she begins to see a glimpse of her father's careless and selfish nature and where she develops her disappointment. All that she believed of her father has been shattered by this act of returning to alcohol. She loses all her confidence to trust this man again after giving him many chances.


The fathers masculinity is challenged here. He declares himself the "head" of the family but yet is unable to carry the family out of unhopeful situations. When a woman especially, (in this case his wife) tries to take over his responsibilities to lead and provide for his family, he loses faith in himself more because of the importance
he places on self sufficiency.

“We were sort of like cactus. We ate irregularly, and when we did we’d gorge ourselves” pg22










“All we had to do was find gold, Dad said, and we were on the verge of that. Once he finished the Prospector and we struck it rich, he’d start work on our Glass Castle.” Pg25




Jeannette feels uncomfortable in the position she has arose to in the future feeling guilt towards living contrastingly better than her parents and being embarrassed by them. Her past of the poor conditions the family had lived lingers within her, almost as if she had abandoned the life she'd been used to and acts as a blockade from doing certain chores in her current life such as being unable to attend the party.



This ironic statement made by the father begins the novel arising the questioning of the father's correctness of Jeannette's safety and different parenting style the children adapts to not looking to change outside values they hold. Compared to the burdening life of being chased by fear of getting caught, the quietness and order of the hospital seem safer than living with her family, under an environment where exposure to danger is everywhere. As an innocent child, Jeannette is not able to question this herself but unfortunately can't help but to accept and follow values and lessons given to her. This is also when Jeannette first develops her image of the father as being her "hero" when he rescues her from the unfamiliar hospital setting.
“Tell them we like eating margarine then maybe they’ll stop fighting.”

This quote shows Jeanette’s maturity and innocence, rather than being angry and disappointed in her parents for failing to put food on the table she is more concerned on stopping them from arguing and fighting. In this situation it is evident that Jeanette is more mature and responsible than her parents. This quote is an example of how sometimes individuals parents in particular forget that they have to remain calm and level headed when children are present at that fighting will not solve anything. Rex and Rose Mary continue to demonstrate their incompetence as parents.

Pages 75- 100
“It’s not my fault your hungry”

In this quote Rose Mary fails to realize that it’s her responsibility as a mother to make sure her children are fed. However she continues to show her immaturity by blaming her short comings on others. This quote is an example of how human beings blame others for their failures. Rose Mary is perfectly capable of providing for her children as she has a degree and can teach, but rather she prefers to paint and blame her children hunger on others.



The Walls family is undoubtedly poor. The way they live their lives, uplifting everything every randomly whenever trouble arises, forces them to be hungry most of the time. Like the cactus mentioned, whenever they are able to eat, they fill themselves full, rather than save what they can, because they know it will be quite a while before they can eat again. The environment that the cactus and the Walls family live in is extremely harsh, the desert bombards them with sandstorms and rarely gives nourishment. The cactus provides a symbol for the way the family lives, the uncertain future they face. Like the cactus the Walls family faces an uncertain future, never knowing when or if they will eat again. They have to gorge themselves simply because it may, for all they know, be the last meal they have. The cactus is also a symbol for the greed humans innately have. It gorges itself on the water taking in as much as it possibly can, then protects it with its barbs to prevent any other life from obtaining the hydration they need, similarly humans often horde valuables, hiding them away so nobody else can have them.


For Rex and his family, both gold and the Glass Castle represent their hopes of prosperity and their unfulfilled aspirations. Throughout the first two chapters, Rex is obsessed with finding gold. He sees it as the solution to his family’s problems. Having gold would enable them to live like the people they feel they are: adventurous, intelligent, and fun. Gold would let them build their dream home, the Glass Castle. One that is self-sufficient, one that would not need to rely on the government and authorities they feel are all too corrupt. Their unwavering hope is the only thing that keeps the family from being miserable and downtrodden because of their otherwise impoverished lives. Such unrelenting hope is necessary for their survival and is what pushes humans to develop and evolve. The progress that society has made, from the dark ages to the modern era, stems from the human ability to maintain hope in the bleakest circumstances and is what allows the family to stick together and move forward.

Rex sees himself as the best he can be. The description of himself as clever, strong, and fast shows the way he thinks of himself, without flaws. He focuses on the best that he is, not discussing his numerous faults, such as alcoholism and selfishness. Rex, like many people, thinks of himself only in terms of his best. This quality allows Rex to be hopeful in the face of his bleak existence. His inability to overcome his alcoholism, coupled with his high self esteem prevents him from realizing that he cannot escape his poverty stricken lifestyle without some help from the outside. Rex clearly believes that he can care for his children and take on any problem that they may face, but in reality he consistently lets them down causing them to be reliant on each other rather than him. If what Rex was saying was true in could assume that he could hold a job, make a living, and support his family. Instead Rex is continuously fired and makes excuses instead of taking responsibility. Egos can be dangerous, and for Rex Walls it is his ego that traps him in his constant “adventure”.

"It didn't bother her(Lori) that Miss Beatty showed up to observe Mom's class, Mom started yelling at Lori to prove to Miss Beatty that she was capable of disciplining her students. One time Mom went so far as to order Lori up to the front of the class, where she gave her a whipping with a wooden paddle."








"I yanked the pistol out of Lori's hand, aimed low, and pulled the trigger









"Lori, who was bringing The Wizard of Oz, objected...."


“Dad always fought harder, flew faster and gambled smarter than anyone else in his stories. Along the way, he rescued women and children and even men who weren’t as strong and clever” Pg24

Forgiveness is one of the big themes in The Glass Castle. When an individual comes across a poor family, they often search for other people that they can blame their troubles on. And then, when someone does something wrong, they do not easily forgive. However, the Walls family has a tremendous role for forgiveness. Particularly, the children are the most forgiving individuals. This forgiveness is coming from an understanding of the other person. In this quote, Lori understands her mother so well that it didn’t bother her when Miss Beatty showed up to observe her mother’s class. Even though her mother’s actions may have seemed cruel and unusual, Lori understands that she means nothing by it and it’s only purpose is to convince the visiting teacher that she is disciplining her students properly. However, forgiving people have a tendency to take their forgiveness too far.

This quote demonstrates maturity, when innocent, can lead to mistakes. The day after Jeannette throws the ring that Billy gave to her at his head, Billy showed up at the Wall’s house with a gun. The kids tried to defend themselves by scaring Billy off with a gun and when the fight was over, cops pulled over at the house and ordered the family to go to court. This is a mistake because Jeannette’s parents cannot face city representatives because of their unpaid bills. This order lead the family to runaway.

The Wizard of Oz was Lori's favorite book when she was younger.Its thematic concern with escape and freedom are significant, though, as the Walls children also go on to find their own road for
independence that takes them away from the world they were raised in. Parallels
with the search for the Wizard and father’s dream of building the Glass Castle are
also evident as both are romantic notions, but are also necessary counterbalances to
black and white material reality
Page 75-100 continued
"You know, Mountain Goat, I still feel bad about making you leave your rock collection..."














“But I was happy in Battle Mountain. We’d been there for nearly a year and I considered it home- the first real home that I could remember.”










“There’s no reason to grieve,” Mom said. “We’ve all got to o someday and Grandma had a life that was longer and fuller than most.” She paused. “And now we have a place to live.”
Mountain Goat has been repeated several times in the novel and it is a nickname that Rex's made for his favorite child. This nickname refers to Jeannette's endurance in face of her difficulties. Like a mountain goat, she is able to climb mountains without losing her balance. Jeannette is the only child given a nickname by her father. The praise implies a special relationship between Jeanette and her father that the other children could not share with Rex. Furthermore, the nickname foreshadows Jeannette's perseverance and endurance when she realizes that her and her siblings must live apart from their parents if they are to ever lead stable, fulfilling their lives.

This quote represents the things in Battle Mountain were good and happy times were easy to come by. Jeanette’s families’ lives seemed to be the happiest here. It seemed like Rex was not drinking as much as he used to drink, and the family was able pay their rent constantly. Rex had a steady income from the mine work that he was doing. The children were always able to play and create all kinds of new games. This quote also shows the reader that even though everything in life is not perfect, home is where love and family is.

Jeanette's mother acts far from bothered that her own mother has died. Instead of being sad and all that, she is excited that Grandma left money and a house for the family, but her excitement is selfish because she just wants to focus on her art which her mother always despised. Jeannette feels betrayed by her mother who does not even take the time to tell her about the death when it actually happened. Grandma always made Jeannette feel like she was going to be somebody special, but Rose Mary has the opposite effect on her.



“she wanted to punish someone and she didn't want to upset the other kids.”

This quote demonstrates Lori’s innocence and her love for her mother. When the other students were behaving badly she allowed her mother to paddle her in order to make an example to the other students. The Quote embodies the nature of human beings to make sacrifices for the people they love as Lori did for her mother


Jeannette's visual of her father being this perfect, fearless man is shattered by confrontation to a reality that she does not want to accept. She wants to maintain her faith in him and chooses to ignore his irresponsible behaviors derived from drinking alcohol, his temporary escape. Part of why Jeannette wants to retain this image of her father is because she is fearful in the hope that she may lose of the failure of the family's survival. This is the reason she grasps hold on to her father more; he constantly assures her of his plans even though unknowingly they may be unrealistic and almost unattainable.
“I’d tried to help them countless times, but Dad would always insist that they didn’t need anything” pg4








“I was always on the lookout for bigger fires” pg15














“We were always doing the skedaddle, usually in the middle of the night.” Pg19


' " If you want to live in the desert, eat prickly pears, not pansy-assed lettuce"
"That's right," Mom would say. "Prickly pears have more vitamins anyway" '
Page 44

Since the family is very dedicated to their lifestyle and is considered abnormal to majority of people, the prickly pear in contrast with the lettuce shows that the believe their lifestyle is the right way and since they reference everyone living in the desert, they believe that any other way of living is incorrect

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1u5ZvV_9rbxAjhUMMUgRSkW0iKi_kbLFLb_vWH0r48dg/edit?usp=sharing
- ' Dad stuck his head out the window as he drove, hollering at mom, calling her a "stupid whore" and a "stinking cunt" and ordering her to get back in the car.'
- ' Mom and Dad made up the next day, and by late afternoon Mom was cutting Dad's hair in the living room of the apartment we'd rented in Blythe' Page42

Despite Rex's destructive and inappropriate behavior, the family always forgives him for what he does. It further emphasizes a sense of instability and tension in the home. Once again, this represents the impact the father has on the family and the hold he has on them being in charge of them all.

" I fretted about them, but I was embarrassed by them, too, and ashamed of myself for wearing pearls and living on Park Avenue while my parents were busy keeping warm and finding something to eat" (Pg 4)







"You're safe now" (Pg 14)


" When my daddy passes out he never pisses himself" (Pg 83)
Full transcript