The Glass Castle

Book Review and Study Helps



Throughout the book, the Walls children experience family struggles that cause them to be neglected by their parents. The children constantly had to forgive their parents for their wrongdoings. We see this specifically when Jeanette Walls, the main character, had to forgive her father for leaving all four of the children at his abusive mothers house.


Jeanette Walls was nicknamed, "Mountain Goat," by her father to show the endurance she had through all the tough situations she experienced. The young girl and her siblings were neglected by not only one of their parents, but both. She is the one child out of the four of them that had the endurance to try and create a better life for themselves. She never stopped trying to come up with new ideas to improve their life and make them brighter. For instance, Jeanette decided to paint the front porch of a torn up house to make the house have a brighter appearance.



In the beginning of the book Jeanette was in a taxi, on her way to a friends party. While driving through New York City, she spotted her mom rummaging through a dumpster. She got nervous and she realized she did not want her mom to notice her.

Rising Action

Rex Walls, the children's father, taught Jeanette how to swim, but almost let her drown. He claimed almost letting her drown was teaching her a life lesson, but in reality he was showing his lack of care.

Rex talked the children into digging a huge hole for the foundation of the glass castle. The glass castle was the families dream home, so obviously the kids abide by their father's request. The children are then heartbroken when their father decided to fill the foundation hole with garbage because they could not afford garbage removal.

Later in the book, Jeanette's father used her for money. By this time, she was the only one in the whole family who believed in their father. Rex used this to his advantage to manipulate her into "loaning" him some money for alcohol.


Jeanette told both her parents how they need to step up and act more like parents. This took so much courage for her to stand up to her parents the way she did. Her other siblings would have never imagined of doing such a thing, so she took the situation in her own hands. Standing up in such a way did not come without a cost though. Jeanette was then beat by her father, something she never thought he would do. Her father never beat her, this changed her whole perception of him.

Falling Action

Rex stole the money that the children had been saving up for almost a year out of the piggy bank. The children become very upset with Rex and want nothing to do with him. Jeanette later runs away to New York City to move in with her sister.


Maureen moves away to California for the betterment of herself. Dad later had a heart attack, and was put into the hospital. The heart attack was fatal. Jeanette remarried to a guy named John. The family did not see each other very much anymore. Fives years went by and they finally decided to meet up at Jeanette's country house for Thanksgiving.



Jeanette was the main character of the book. She told of her life experiences through her point of view. She found motivation through seeking a better life for her and her siblings. All of the opportunities outside of Welch helped insure her that their is hope for a better life. Life was not everything but hardship for Jeanette though. She also carried a lot of baggage of her own. She had to deal with taking care of her siblings when her parents did not do though, which was most of the time. She ended up taking on the stress of getting a new job to provide for her and her siblings. She tool on the role of a parent a majority of the time. She was also the only child that had the courage to stick up to their parents.


Rex Walls is the father of the family. He didn't always act like a dad to the children, but he claimed he was doing what's best for them. Dad was motivated mostly by Jeanette. Jeanette was the only child out of the four who still believed in Dad and his dreams. He also was motivated by his dream of creating a new invention. Many of his decisions on where to move were based on which place would be best to make his new invention thrive. Dad is an extreme alcoholic who makes horrible decisions when he is drunk. He goes days without visiting his children, leaving his family to fend on their own. He knows what he is doing is wrong, but he can not give up the alcohol no matter how hard he tries. Throughout the whole book, he does not tend to take care of his children. The children lose all their trust for him after he steals their money. Eventually, this leads to the children giving up on him and leaving.


Rose Mary Walls is the mother of the family. Her dream is to become an artist, but when she gets discouraged she tries to isolate herself from everybody and escape from the world. She becomes motivated when she makes new art work. Her art work is all she ever wants to do. When they move, the first thing she always talks about is how her art business will work in the new town. She never actually keeps he jobs. She can not stay focused at a normal job so she always ends up quitting. Her baggage is mostly how she tends to give up when one thing goes wrong. She leaves most of the parenting tasks up to the children themselves. Dealing with her husband is also an extremely hard thing to accomplish. She's way too vulnerable and gives up her hard earned money to him for alcohol. She's scared of her husband. In the end, she claims she likes being homeless because it is an adventure. She always was looking for a new adventure.


Tucson, Arizona is where the first memory Jeanette recalls is taken place. She's three years old and catches on fire while making herself a hot dog. She was taken to the hospital for her severe burns, even though her parents did not agree with her staying in a hospital.

Las Vegas was the next major location the family moved to. They lived in a one room motel room. The three kids shared one bed, while the parents shared another. During the day, dad would take the children to the casino and let them play hide-and-seek while he gambled. He figured out a winning method to blackjack, and began taking the family out to fancy dinners. His gambling method is soon discovered, causing the family to have to do the "skedaddle."

The family moves to San Francisco, California next. They move into a hotel once again. Here, Jeanette begins to play with fire a lot. One time, Jeanette puts toilet paper in the toilet and catches it on fire. She becomes extremely amused at the way fire works. A couple days later, the hotel catches on fire. The family then begins to live in their car on the beach. Police confront them and ask them to leave, so dad gets mad and decides to leave town again.

The next stop on their journey is Midland, California. Midland is completely out in the middle of the desert. Right when the family arrives, Jeanette spots a Joshua tree. She finds this tree to be extremely ugly, but her mom though it was one of the most beautiful trees she ever saw. They moved into a little house this time. During Christmas, dad gave all the children a star or a planet as a gift, because they did not have any money for gifts.

They later moved to Blythe, California. The family lived in an apartment on the outskirts of town. The children started going to school. Jeanette's teachers quickly picked up on her advanced reading skills and intellectual ability. She got picked on a lot by other kids because the way she dressed. Six Mexicans wait for her and end up attacking and beating her. The next day her brother Brian jumps in and tries to protect his little sister. Brian and Jeanette discover a lettuce farm and feasted themselves with the lettuce. Right before they did the "skedaddle" again, mom gave birth to another baby girl named Maureen.

The family moved into an old railroad depot, which has absolutely no furniture. For beds, the children slept in huge boxes. Dad finally got a job as an electrician as a barite mine. The kids were entered in school again, but Jeanette had already learned everything the teacher was teaching. Brian and Jeanette used a shack in the back as a laboratory. The two experimented with different chemicals they found and caught the shack on fire on accident. Later, Brian and Jeanette become curious about a house the towns people call the Green Lantern. Brian is invited into the house and discovers it is a prostitution house.

The Walls family then moves to Phoenix, Arizona. The house they live in used to be Jeanette's grandma's house. The house is extremely big, and the family feels like their life may be turning around. The children are put into gifted programs because of how much they know for their age. Rex gets a job as an electrician. Lori figures out she needs glasses. Her glasses are really thick, but they allow her to finally see the world. Her eyesight was so bad before that she could barely see anything at all.

Immediately when the family arrives in Welch, they decide to try and live with Rex's parents. The children meet their grandparents for the very first time and their uncle Stanley. The children hate the place from the very beginning. The grandparents made the family sleep in the basement. Mom and Dad leave for a couple of days. Right after they left, their grandma tried to molest Brian. Lori stuck up for Brian, and eventually the family left the grandparents house. They then find a little house on the top of a hill that is completely tore up that it doesnt even have a bathroom. The children try to make the best of the place. Eventually Jeanette gets tired of living their and decides to save up money for her, Lori, and Brian to move to New York.

Lori graduates high school and moves to New York. She loves it their and gets her own apartment and job. She let Jeanette know when the time was right for her to come up tp live with her. Jeanette eventually moved in also. She had to get a job to carry her own weight for the keep up of the house. Her first job was McDonald's, but that did not last very long. She ended up getting a job at a newspaper company that did not pay much. Brian, Maureen, mom, and dad moved to New York, so they could be together as a family again. Brian and Maureen were able to stay at Lori's for a little while during the time that mom and dad were homeless. They claimed they liked being homeless, and did not ever live in a house of their own again. Dad saved up some of his money and gave it to Jeanette so she could go to college. Dad later died of a heart attack. Maureen moved off to California so she could get better.

Important Quotes

"It's the Joshua tree's struggle that gives it it's beauty." - Mom

This quote was spoken by the mom. Mom and Jeanette come across a Joshua tree in the desert. Jeanette claims the tree is extremely ugly, but mom says it is one of the most beautiful trees she has ever seen. This quote is important, because it gives a deeper meaning to the struggles of life. The family goes through many struggles throughout their life. Mom is telling Jeanette that the struggles she goes through just make her stronger and give her character. Everything she goes through will define who she really is.

"Things usually work out in the end."

"What if they don't?"

"That just means you haven't come to the end yet" - Mom

This quote was also spoken by mom. This was a conversation between Jeanette and her mom. Her mom was explaining to her that no matter what happens, you will get through it if you are patient enough. These little life lessons help give Jeanette motivation to keep going, and to not give up.

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