The Glass Castle

The eventful tale of an extravagant family

Theme

1.) You can triumph adversity if you apply yourself: Jeanette lived in poverty, and was, in a sense, homeless, however her intelligence and self-determination allowed for her to be successful, and she put the pain of her childhood behind her. She knew what she wanted to do with her life, and moved to New York to make it happen. People move to the Big Apple everyday, in the hopes of making their dreams come true, but more-often-than-not things don't work in their favor, Jeanette applied herself and was prepared to work hard, and that lead to success and gave her the life she always wanted.

2.) Alcoholism is a devastating disease that affects an entire family, not just the person afflicted: The majority of Jeanette's childhood her father made decisions that were detrimental to the entire family. He never kept a steady job, and was some-what destructive after drinking, which was pretty much everyday. He provided the necessities that were essential for survival, but Rex's lack of income caused the family to suffer for months at a time.

Plot

Introduction: A brief look into the life of Jeanette Walls is given. She reflects on the time when she was three-years-old and caught her dress on fire while cooking hot dogs. The majority of Jeanette's youth was going from desert town to desert town; in other words doing the "skedaddle". Her father had multiple drinking incidents and the family's household wasn't the least bit stable. Eventually, the home of Jeanette's grandmother was given to the family after her grandmother died and the family had a small altercation with the law enforcement. This resulted in doing the "skedaddle", so the family packed up and moved into their grandmother's house in Phoenix, Arizona.

Rising Action: After living in Phoenix for a short time, the family decides to leave Arizona and move back to West Virginia where Rex (Jeanette's father) is from. In the beginning the family lived with Rex's parents, but after living there for some time, they decided to find their own place. The place they found had no running water or electricity. After realizing realizing her potential, Jeanette decided she wanted out of Welch, West Virginia. Jeanette and her sister Lori hatch a plan to move to New York City; Lori will move when she graduates high school, then Jeanette will follow her there.

Climax: Jeanette quickly finds a job there then becomes a reporter, which is all she ever wanted to be. Life is going smoothly in New York so Lori and Jeanette invite their brother Brian and sister Maureen to come live with them. After Brian and Maureen move to New York Jeanette's parents feel abandoned in West Virginia and decide to move to New York with the rest of their family. While Jeanette, Lori, and Brian are successful in New York with secure jobs and new lives, Maureen is less fortunate. She is unable to take care of herself, and in a bout of insanity she stabs her mother and ends up in a mental institution.

Resolution: Slowly, the family drifts apart. After a life-time of smoking and drinking Jeanette's father is dying even though he is barely even sixty-years-old. Eventually Rex dies of a heart attack. Jeanette eventually finds peace with her past and present. She gets married, twice, and is now living happily with her second husband.

Characters

Jeanette Walls

The narrator and main character of the story. She tells the stories of her past, and her neglectful, yet loving parents. Her past wasn't easy, but she didn't let that stop her from living the life SHE wanted to live.



Mom

The selfish mother of the family whose problems are sort-of dragged into the whole family. She loves her family, but typically her needs come before her families.

Dad

The alcoholic father who loves his children more than anything in the world, but he uses them for personal benefit. He tries to be a good father, but his addiction stands in the way. He loves his children and hopes that they love him.

This is where the story began and where Jeanette was born.

They live in a hotel, but Rex is bringing home money from the casinos. However, the casino eventually discovers Rex's gambling method and the family has to quickly do the "skedaddle" and get out of town.

In San Francisco they live in a hotel. Jeanette experiments with fire while she is here, which resulted in a hotel fire. Everyone escapes without injury and Jeanette's father helps fight the fire. After the fire the family lives in a car on the beach until they are asked to leave by a police officer. Soon after the parents crave the desert life again, so they back up and head south.

Midland is in the heart of the desert. Jeanette and her father try to fend of demons after Jeanette hears a sound underneath her bed one night. Rex tells her that you have to show demons that you aren't afraid of them and they won't mess with you.

For the first time in the story the family lives in an apartment. Jeanette also goes to school, and is one of the smartest people in her class. She was picked on and beat up a few times, but she got through it with the help of her brother, Brian.

In Battle Mountain the family lives in an old depot station. Money is scarce, and all of the children sleep in cardboard boxes. Rex gets a job and his drinking probably isn't quite as intense. Whenever their Grandmother, who lived in Phoenix, passes the family is given her old home. So the family, yet again, packs up and moves to Phoenix, Arizona.

The house in Phoenix is nicer than the family is used to. All of the children are put into school and are all put into gifted reading groups. Life is going great in Phoenix! However, the house isn't going to last forever without any maintenance and the house is quickly infested with termites. Eventually the father decides that it is time for the family to leave again, so they pack up and head to West Virginia.  

Living conditions in Welch aren't fabulous, which makes things hard. The grandchildren meet their grandmother and uncle for the first time, and live with them when they first move to Welch. Eventually, they move out into their own place, but the house was inexpensive and was falling apart around them. Jeanette had enough of her parents' lack of responsibility and eventually left for New York.

Lori and Jeanette leave first, but eventually the rest of the family follows behind. Jeanette is successful in New York and not only attended college, but graduated college. She had a steady job and a husband that she loved.

Quotes

"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.”

-Jeanette

It teaches an important life lesson and shows a very optimistic point of view. It helps the reader see the positive, in which Jeanette thinks.

“Life is a drama full of tragedy and comedy. You should learn to enjoy the comic episodes a little more.”

-Jeanette

Again, it is an important life lesson but it also shows the narrator's intelligence. She is smart enough to look past the tragedies in her life, because she has a full life ahead of her that she needs to live to the fullest.  

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