The Glass Castle
Throughout the story, the Walls children learned how to survive life on their own, even though their parents lived with them and were mostly capable of caring for them. From an early age, the children learned to be independent people and to fight their future through the obstacles they had to overcome. These things can be seen specifically when the children fend for themselves at school and move to New York.
Superintending & Responsibility
Towards the middle of the book, the children began to truly take charge of their lives. Despite their parents being incapable to raising their children sufficiently, the kids do not allow their parents' harrowing past affect their futures. This is seen most clearly when the girls make a budget for their irresponsible parents, and begin saving up to move to New York.
In the beginning of the book, Jeannette and her family have to move out for their house and run away from the "police" and the "FBI". Although they are no actually being chased by the authorities, rather from debt and tax collectors, they become nomadic.
Just as the children begin to become accustomed to their nomadic lifestyle, their life takes a turn for the worst. Life becomes much more difficult than it was previously, so their father begins drinking and driving, their mother becomes pregnant with their third child and gives birth. The Walls children all move to Welch at one point, this is where Rex, their father, grew up. There they live with the their grandparents and their uncle. It is in Welch where life gets to its worst. The children live in their parents' house where the roof caves in and leaks, the house is practically falling down the hillside, and their backyard has a big foundation for the Glass Castle that ends up becoming a landfill for their garbage. Jeannette and Lori begin planning to move to New York, and soon Brian is planning with them. But eventually their father finds their stash of money, cleans out the piggy bank and then lies about it.
Not soon after they have re-raised the money they required, Lori moves to New York. Soon Jeannette joins her, and then Brian. Maureen finds her way to them in New York, but then their parents also move to New York. Maureen goes to live with them and tries to stab their mother, and after serving time in a mental hospital, she moves to California. Their parents become homeless and live happily so.
The Walls begin re-assembling their family life. They have meetings at Lori's house and eat dinner together. Happily, they live near each other but very separated.
In the end, Rex Walls dies and the family continues life. The family eats dinner together and they live happily.
Jeannette is the main character and narrator of "The Glass Castle". Jeannette is motivated to obtain what she never had, a perfect, happy life. Jeannette is burdened by her parents' pasts and the unruly life of her family. Jeannette is a very strong, independent person who never gives up on her dreams.
Jeannette's dad, Rex Walls, is one of the main problems of in her life. He is not motivated for anything because he is lazy and an alcoholic that is abusive. Rex is weighed down by his past, he was most likely sexually abused by his mother as a child and suffered from bipolar disorder and alcoholism. Rex is important because he is one of the main antagonists of the story.
Rose Mary Walls is the mother of Jeannette, and the wife of Rex. She is motivated by her love of art and her confidence in her ability to be an accomplished artist. She has a few ghosts, including her failing marriage, and her unfruitful attempts at being a professional artists. She is most important because she is the only parent in the Walls that actually tries to keep the family together, and actually tries to get work sometimes.
In the beginning of the story, the dress that Jeannette is wearing catches fire and so they take her to the hospital. The Walls leave the hospital without paying the bill and leave Tucson behind forever.
Las Vegas, NV
The family move to Las Vegas because Rex has a new 'method' for blackjack. He believes his new method will make the family a lot of money so he showers them with gifts prior to the first use of his method. His method is figured out and the family has to perform 'the skeddadle'.
San Francisco, CA
The family moves to San Francisco, CA after they have to leave Las Vegas. Here, Jeanette experiments with fire in the bathroom of the 'hotel', which is actually a brothel, that they are living in. Ironically, the brothel burns down a few days later, although not due to Jeannette.
The family flees San Francisco and goes to Midland, CA. Midland is a very small town in the middle of the desert. Jeannette is frightened of the coyotes and gila monsters so she and her father go on a demon hunt. Then her father loses his job at the Gypsum mine and they move.
In Blythe, the family lives in an apartment and Jeannette goes to school. She is the best reader in her entire class and always raises her hand. The kids in her class resent her and six Mexican girls jump her in an alley. The next day they are waiting for her and her brother tries to hit them with a yucca branch. But the girls turn on him so Jeannette hits one in the head with a rock.
Battle Mountain, NV
When the Walls move to Battle Mountain, they end up living in an old train station. Rose Mary got a job teaching at Mary S. Black Elementary and Rex still didn't have a job. Rex eventually gets a job in a mine. The children enjoyed playing in the desert, and one day Jeannette and Brian accidentally set a wooden shed ablaze by mixing chemicals in the dump. Rex loses his job and the family plunges into poverty, there is no food in the house and the children are forced to steal food from neighbors. Rex and Rose Mary get in a big fight about not having food in the house and it ends with Rose Mary hanging out of the upstairs window, claiming that Rex is trying to kill her. Billy Deel and his dad move to Battle Mountain and ends up having a crush on Jeannette. He claims she is his girlfriend even though she is not and gives her a ring. Then he tries to take advantage of her but the other kids discover him. The Walls end up moving out of Battle Mountain.
On their way to Phoenix, the Walls children learn that their Grandma Smith had died from leukemia long before they started going to Phoenix. They end up living in an inherited house that was bestowed onto the family by Grandma Smith. Rose Mary begins spending her inheritance money on art supplies and they eventually run out of money. Their house is falling apart and Rex fills in the termite holes with empty beer cans and they smash cockroaches instead of exterminating them. Lori gets glasses that are provided by the school and she declares she wishes to be an artist like her mother now that she has her sight. Rex gets kicked out of the electrician's union. They celebrate Christmas but Rex burns down the Christmas tree on purpose. In the spring, for Jeannette's birthday, Rex offers one gift and Jeannette asks for one thing. Rex has to stop drinking, and so he forces himself to stop drinking. But when they take a trip to the Grand Canyon, the car breaks down and the Walls are forced to walk back to Phoenix. When they arrive home, Rex leaves and returns home drunk and angry three days later. Rose Mary suggests they go live in Welch where Rex grew up so that his parents can help kill his drinking habit.
The Walls end up moving in with Grandpa Walls, Uncle Stanley, and their grandmother, Erma. Rose Mary sees the destitute town as an opportunity to allow her art career to thrive, as there will be no competition nearby. Jeannette and Brian are put into classes for children with learning disabilities because the principle is unable to understand their accents and they are unable to understand his. Dinitia Hewitt, a girl at their school, jumps Jeannette with a bunch of other girls because everyone thinks Jeannette believes she is better than anyone else. Jeannette saves a small black boy from a dog and sees Dinitia watching her. Dinitia begins befriending Jeannette and Erma and Stanley tell Jeannette that people will think she is a 'nigger lover' for spending time with black people. Rex and Rose Mary return to Phoenix to retrieve some of their belongings, and while they are gone Erma tries to force herself onto Brian, claiming that his pants needed mending. Jeannette yells at her and tells Rex about what happened, prompting no response, making Jeannette believe that her father experienced the same kind of abuse as a child. After this incident they are kicked out of Erma and Grandpa Walls' house and move to a small apartment. The house is rundown and broken and Jeannette feels she should fix it up and paints it but there is not enough paint. In an attempt to start a fire with kerosene in the winter, Lori is burned and develops blisters. Erma dies that winter and Rex goes out and drinks for days. Uncle Stanley accidentally burns down the house so he and Grandpa Walls move to an apartment. The Walls use the running water at Uncle Stanley's apartment but Jeannette refuses to go because Uncle Stanley touches her inappropriately. Rose Mary gets a job at an elementary school after Jeannette urges her to. Jeannette starts working for "The Maroon Wave", the school newspaper, and learn new things about the world. Lori and Rose Mary leave for the summer on separate trips and Jeannette is left in charge of the family. Rex beats a man in pool by using Jeannette as a distraction. Lori and Rose Mary both return fro their trips as different people, Lori decides she wants to move to New York when she meets two filmmakers that visit Welch. Rex deforms a bust of William Shakespeare that Lori was forming, and then steals all the escape money. Jeannette is offered a babysitting job in Iowa for a family moving from Welch but she asks for it to be given to Lori and that she be given a bus ticket at the end of the summer. Jeannette becomes editor-in-chief for the school newspaper and is finally treated like a normal kid by the other students and she follows Lori to New York.
New York, NY
Jeannette is taken to Lori by a friend and moves in with Lori at Evangeline, a women's hostel in Greenwich Village. In the summer the girls move to an apartment in the South Bronx. Jeannette gets an internship at a newspaper called The Phoenix and quits her job when she is offered a full-time job at the newspaper. Brian moves to New York after news comes that the situation back home is strained. The kids then petition for Maureen to also move in with them. Rex and Rose Mary follow their children to New York City and live in a van. They are kicked out of two apartments and end up living with Lori. Lori is forced to kick her parents out because they are impossible to live with. Jeannette refuses to accept her parents' life style and Rex gets tuberculosis and is hospitalized. Rex and Rose Mary give Jeannette $590 dollars of the $1,000 she needed to help pay for school. Jeannette moves in with Eric, a man she had been dating for some time and they marry after 4 years. Uncle Jim dies and Rose Mary asks Jeannette to help buy his land back. Lori ends up becoming a freelance artist and Brian becomes a police officer. Maureen graduates high school and begins attending city college but drops out and starts living with her parents. Maureen stabs Rose Mary after she is asked to move out. She serves time in a prison and when she gets out, end sup moving to California without saying a word to her family. The family stops talking to each other when Maureen leaves, Brian moves to Long Island with his wife and daughter, Rex calls Jeannette and asks her to visit him and bring a gallon of vodka. She goes to see him and he reveals that he is dying. Rex dies from a heart attack and Jeannette divorces Eric a year later, choosing to move to the west side.
"Have I ever let you down?"
Multiple times in the novel, Rex Walls asks his daughter, Jeannette, if he has ever let her down. In the beginning of the book, when she is younger, she says no, but as the years wear on, she eventually admits that he had always let her down.
"If you don't want to sink, you better figure out how to swim."
In the novel, it is apparent that the Walls children had to overcome many hardships in order to attain the lives they wanted. The quote is about the time that Rex kept throwing Jeannette into the water in order for her to learn how to swim. This quote represents the struggle that a person must go through in order to achieve the things they want in life.