Free Study Guide for The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls|
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THE GLASS CASTLE LITERATURE NOTES BY JEANETTE WALLS
The idea that Jeannette has to be on her toes, because fire is out to
get her is metaphorical for the traps and obstacles she faces in a life
that is made so unstable by her careless parents. The fire would be no
threat to her if they guarded her like parents should.
The family leaves San Francisco and heads for the Mojave Desert. Along the way, Mom makes Dad stop to look at a tree that catches her fancy. It is a Joshua tree and a very old one at that. It exists in a state of permanent “windblownness,” leaning over so far that it seems ready to topple over. Jeannette thinks it’s ugly, reminding her of how adults tell you not to make faces or your face will freeze that way. Mom, however, wants to paint it and when Dad sees a small town up ahead, they decide to stay. They rent a house from a mining company, and the creatures moving around at night - coyotes, Gila monsters, and snakes - keep Jeannette awake. One night, she’s convinced that there’s something under the bed, so Dad comes in and convinces her he knows that the creature is one he knows and calls Demon. Dad gets his hunting knife and together they go looking for Demon. They find nothing, and Dad ends up telling her the story of how he fought off Demon when he was terrorizing a town. He tells Jeannette, “That’s the thing to remember about all monsters: they love to frighten people, but the minute you stare them down, they turn tail and run.”
Jeannette comes to realize that the only animals that can survive in this little town of Midland were lipless, scaly creatures such as Gila monsters and scorpions and people like them. Their dog, Juju, is bitten by a rattlesnake and dies, but they take in cats to save them from the creatures of the desert. Eventually, the cats reproduce so quickly that Dad puts a whole bunch of the kittens into a burlap bag and takes them to a pond to drown them. Jeannette doesn’t understand why they rescued them in the first place if they were only going to drown them. Mom says, “We gave them a little extra time on the planet. They should be grateful for that.”
Mom becomes pregnant, and everyone hopes it will be a boy for Brian.
Dad plans to move them to Blythe before she gives birth, because it’s
a bigger town with better medical facilities. In the meantime, Mom sculpts
and paints, especially dozens of variations of the Joshua tree. Jeannette
sees a sapling growing near them and wants to transplant it near the house
where she can water it and make it grow nice and straight. Mom just frowns
at her and says, “You’d be destroying what makes it special. It’s the
Joshua Tree’s struggle that gives it beauty.”
The two greatest metaphors expressed in this chapter are the desert and its creatures and the Joshua tree. The family is like the desert in that it survives in the worst conditions and it bends like the tree against all the hazards of life.
There is also the irony that Dad teaches Jeannette how to stand up against the monsters and not show them fear while he becomes a monster himself by destroying the kittens he no longer wants to care for.
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Clapsaddle, Diane. "TheBestNotes on The Glass Castle".
. 09 May 2017