The Glass Castle

Book Review and Study Helps


Theme 2; Parental Responsibility

Growing up with an alcoholic for a father and a sporadic artists for a mother was never easy. Both parents always trying to bring in at least some money for food, whether it was for the family or for themselves. Never completely abandoning their children, both Rex and Rosemary  Walls, always tried to provide for their kids. Dad's drinking problem and mom's depression did cause a lot of strain on the family, but at the end of each day, they would always try to teach their kids wrong from right.

Theme 1; Holding a Family Together

Throughout the book, the Walls family had many great struggles. After having a daughter in the hospital for being burned, living as if they were on the run in all sorts of shacks and huts, Losing one of the grandparents' house to a fire, then one of the grandparents themselves, even after moving to a big city for the first and starting life all over again, they Walls family was still whole. Although there were holes in it, the family was still together in the end.



In the beginning of the story, the parents and the three first born children are introduced. The setting and time are told and there is a brief flash foreword in time. The narrator is meeting her parents in New York City. Then it is over and the narrator changes settings back to her home cooking when she burned herself. She was hospitalized for several weeks when her father rushes her out of the hospital and takes the whole family away.

Rising Action

After the family moves, they continue to move. Never staying in one town for too long they keep moving from one small mining town in the American southwest to another. Living in those towns and moving that often began to take a toll on the family so they picked a town called Battle Mountain. Living in an old railroad station in that town the family began to make more of a permanent living, they even added a new daughter to the clan roster. Then, again needing to switch towns, the family moves into the house that once belonged to the mother of the mother of the family.  They lived in that house for a few years. Having what resembled a normal Christmas in Phoenix, the fathers drinking issue became more of a prominent problem. Then after a few years there, they were forced to move again. This time to the parents' of the fathers house in West Virginia. Still finding it hard to fit in, the children struggled to finish school. They watched as their family fell apart. Dad continued to drink more and more and the mother looked more and more desperate to leave that place. Finishing high school, the narrator and the oldest daughter of the family moved out to an apartment in New York City.


Bouncing from job to job and moving from apartment to apartment the narrator began adjusting to city life. Putting herself through collage and eventually bringing up the only son and third born son of the family, she eventually had to bring her parent up from West Virginia too. They hopped from place to place and in and out of employment until the parents became homeless and heavily dependent on their kids for money. The youngest daughter of the family became so fed up with the family she eventually stabbed the mom, although not fatally, and was arrested. Still living on the streets, dad continued to drink heavier and heavier until he had a heart attack and died in the hospital.

Falling Action

So now with the farther gone and one sibling in jail the narrator continued to try to endure everything that this life had to throw at her. She was still bouncing from job to job and from one apartment to another. She had become accustomed to living on the move. It was one of her ways of coping. She even took up ice skating as a way to still be moving and to try to get her mind off things. The mother of the family has now been living with the oldest daughter of the family after having lost her husband. Money was still tight for them even though the daughter had been working this whole time.


Five long years have passed since the father died. The narrator had decided to bring the broken, but not defeated, family together once again. And so for thanksgiving, the mother and the oldest daughter, the son, and the narrators second husband all got together to have a large dinner and celebrate all of the traditions associated with the holiday.


Janette Walls;

Main character of the story. She is also the narrator. She has red hair and has always been skinny throughout her entire life. Outgoing and adventurous, she always finds herself a little in over her head, while it is rarely her fault for getting into those situations to begin with.

The Mother, Rosemary;

Married to Rex walls. She is the mother of the four children in the story. She tends to be a little more expressive than most people. She dreams of being a famous artist or a writer someday.

The father, Rex;

Married to Rosemary Walls. He is the father and head of the family. He is the one who will, more often than not, make the executive decisions for the family. His drinking problem often proves very difficult for the family to deal with even after he tries to quit. His attitude towards life and the way he takes the world on by the horns is seen in many ways by all of the various people around him. He makes a point to teach his favorite daughter, Janette, anything useful as frequently as he can.


At the beginning of the story, the family is living in Las Vegas. This is where Janette burned herself while cooking hot dogs and was hospitalized.

The family lived in several small mining towns throughout the American South West before finally settling down in Battle Mountain. This is where the family began to live what partially resembled a normal life. They had set up residence in an old train station house and jumped between jobs to bring in money for food.

When the family could no longer live in Battle Mountain, they moved to Phoenix, Arizona. They lived in the house that once belonged to Rosemary's mother before she died. This is where the mother set up her first real attempt at an art studio.

In Welch West Virginia, The family had grown to four kids when Maureen was born not long before they left Phoenix. This is where the children started high school and began to make more permanent friends. Rex's mother, Erma, died here during the family's stay.

This is where the two oldest daughters moved before the rest of the family joined them. Janette put herself through collage here, while Lori was doing what she could for her parents. The father of the family had continued to drink more and more over the years and finally died when he had a heart attack. This is where the story ends.

Important Quotes

Quote 1;

"So we could be a family again. To the family." -Rex Walls. Page 253.

Rex Walls explained to Brian why the parents had moved to New York City. When questioned why, he replied, "So we could be a family again." He then raised his pint in a toast to the family. The significance of this quote comes from the effor that it took for a homeless family to move to New York City to keep the family together rather than staying in Welch.

Quote 2;

"You know damn good and well that you are to respect your parents." -Rex Walls. Page 219.

Janette was questioning that her mother was not taking her parent obligations serious enough. Rex scolded her for not respecting her mom. The quote is significant because it illustrates a major theme in the book about parent responsibility.

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