The Glass Castle

Jeannette Walls

Self Sufficiency
Even during their hardest times, Rex and Rose Mary Walls refuse to become charity cases. They do not even accept help from their children in their late adulthood. The value of being self sufficient descends mainly from Rose Mary Walls, whose upbringing in an incredibly disciplined home leads her to forgo the rules when she becomes a mother. Her children, she insists, must learn how to be self sufficient and strong. They should not rely on society or doctors or anything else to help them through life. Even when they fall ill or injure themselves, Rose Mary prefers to treat the wound at home rather than cater to what she considers a false need to visit the hospital. Though the Walls value self sufficiency they are not always able to maintain it, and sometimes their methods are not sufficient for survival at all.

Rex and Rose Mary Walls also insist that their children are special and that they need not conform to the societal norm. Rex is even a little saddened when his son Brian joins the Air Force, what Rex considers "the gestapo." Nonconformity also impacts the elder Walls' relation to authority. Neither of them is capable of taking orders from authority very well. Rex gets into arguments and fights with bosses and law enforcement, and Rose Mary struggles to conform to the idea of a teaching job. She prefers the carefree and self-defined life as an artist, which does not force her to conform to another person's style or schedule beside her own.



Jeannette Walls tells her readers all about her life in an abusive, dysfunctional family. We learn through her that nothing in the dynamic of family relationships is ever just black and white.

Rising Action:

The rising action occurs when the Walls family moves to Welch and Dads (abusive) mom takes sexual advantage of Brian suggesting Dad was abused as well, when the family is forced to move in with dads mom to get help from his family.


The climax occurs when Maureen becomes mentally incompetent, stabs mom, gets sent to a mental institution, and the family argues over who’s to blame for her mental  breakdown.

Falling action:

The falling action eventually starts when Rex steals the money from Laurie, and the kids move to New York to start their own normal lives.


The falling action occurs when Maureen leaves for California, Dad dies, and the remaining family members see little of each until five years after Dad’s death. They meet at Jeannette’s country home and reconnect for a Thanksgiving feast where they learn that there is no room for recriminations.


Jeannette Walls

Jeannette Walls was born in Phoenix, Arizona. Her parents moved the family around the southwest before settling for a time in Welch, West Virginia. It was in West Virginia, as she entered her teens, that she was often mistreated. At age 17 she moved to New York City. With the help of part-time jobs, she eventually entered Columbia University’s Barnard College, where she graduated with honors.

She had come to love journalism while working on her high school newspaper so she tried working as a gopher for New York Magazine while she attended college. She eventually moved to the business section and ended up a news reporter for USA Today. Her first gossip column was written once again at New York Magazine. She moved on to Esquire Magazine’s gossip column and worked at MSNBC as an online columnist and television segment reporter for eight years (leaving in 2007), before deciding to turn her full attention to writing books. She now lives in Virginia and is married to another writer, John Taylor.


Most of the story takes place in Welch, West Virginia

And New York City

Important Quotes:

“Things usually work out in the end."

If they don't?
That just means you haven't come to the end yet.”


“You should never hate anyone, even your worst enemies. Everyone has something good about them. You have to find the redeeming quality and love the person for that.”


Comment Stream