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Free Study Guide for The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

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SECTION TWO (Pages 15-16)


A few days after Jeannette returns home, she is hungry enough to fix herself some hotdogs while once again her mother is painting. Mom is impressed that Jeannette gets “right back into the saddle.” She tells her that she shouldn’t live in fear of something as basic as fire. Jeannette tells the reader that she doesn’t fear fire. Instead, she becomes fascinated with it. Her Dad shows her how to pass her hand through a candle flame without getting burned. She does it over and over and then begins running to watch while the neighbors burn their trash. Dad tells the astonished neighbor who thinks Jeannette would want to run from fire after what happened to her, “Why the hell would she? She already fought fire once and won.” (page 15)

Once she even takes her favorite toy, a plastic Tinkerbelle figurine, and holds its face to a flame. Before she can pull it away, the face begins to melt. She puts bandages on it, but she wishes she could perform a skin graft like she received. Of course, she knows that would mean cutting Tinkerbelle into pieces.


This short section emphasizes the eccentric way the Walls parents raise their children. They want to teach Jeannette not to be afraid of fire, but they do it in such a way that they set her on a path of possible pyromania! Jeannette’s fascination with fire is unusual, to say the least.

The story of Tinkerbelle’s melting face is a perfect parallel to Jeannette herself. She has faced real fire and has lost parts of her skin. That doesn’t even begin to describe the parts of her emotional self she may have lost.

SECTION THREE (Pages 17-18)


A few months later, Dad comes home in the middle of the night and makes everyone get up and pack. They are moving. They aren’t allowed to take any more than they need to survive so as to hurry them onto the road. However, Mom holds them up by digging and digging in the back yard, looking for the jar of cash she buried there. She had forgotten where she had buried it. Jeannette is disappointed to have forgotten Tinkerbelle, but Dad won’t go back. She also tries to keep Quixote, their cat, quiet so Dad won’t become angry, but cats hate to travel, and eventually, Dad grabs it by the scruff of the neck and throws it out the window. Jeannette bursts into tears while Mom tells her that she shouldn’t be so sentimental. Her explanation is that the cat will be a wild one now, which is better than being a pet. In the meantime, her little brother, Brian, holds tightly to the dog! Jeannette then asks Dad where they are going. He replies, “Wherever we end up.” That night, they stop in the desert and sleep under the stars. Jeannette tells her sister, Lori, that she could live like this forever. Lori responds, “I think we’re going to.”


This small section shows two sides to Rex Walls: one is his fear of bill collectors which puts the whole family on the road, living in uncomfortable circumstances, and he is a man who would unceremoniously throw an animal out of a moving car; the other is the father who tells them stories and makes sleeping in the desert under the stars an adventure. Lori, being older, knows that the adventurous side is wearing thin.


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Clapsaddle, Diane. "TheBestNotes on The Glass Castle". . 09 May 2017