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Free Study Guide for The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

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THE GLASS CASTLE PLOT SUMMARY BY JEANETTE WALLS

PART TWO - THE DESERT

SECTION SEVENTEEN (Pages 67-72)

Summary

This section begins with Lori’s announcement that Dad has lost his job. He had kept it for nearly six months - longer than any other. So, Jeannette figures that they will soon be leaving Battle Mountain. However, Lori says they’ll be staying there, because Dad had deliberately had himself fired so he could spend more time looking for gold.

As a result, the family’s contribution to Dad’s new “career” is, as usual, to eat less. Before, when they ran low on food, Dad would use his ingenuity to score something for them to eat, even if it were just a can of tomatoes. Now, however, he begins disappearing a lot. So the kids spend most of their time thinking of food and figuring out how to score some, even if it means stealing it. Then, a couple of months after Dad loses his job, he comes home with a bag of groceries. There is a can of corn, which mysteriously disappears, and the rest is eaten fairly quickly. Eventually, all that’s left is a stick of margarine that Jeannette discovers Lori eating after school the next day. They finish it together just as Mom comes in the door. Mom is angry and claims she was saving the margarine to butter the bread. Jeannette points out to her that the bread is gone, and the gas is off so they can’t bake any either. Mom then says she was saving it in case there is a miracle, and the gas comes back on.


Mom’s argument makes no sense to Jeannette who wonders if her mother had been looking forward to eating the margarine herself. So Jeannette defends herself by declaring that she ate it, because she was hungry! She tells the reader, “Mom gave me a startled look. I’d broken one of our unspoken rules: We were always supposed to pretend our life was one long and incredibly fun adventure.” The comment makes Mom begin to shake, and she screams at Lori and Jeannette that’s it not her fault that they’re hungry. Her indignation continues when Dad comes home. She accuses him of spending his whole day at the Owl Club while he insists he’s out trying to earn money. He claims he has discovered a cyanide-leaching process to separate gold from the rock around it, but he needs money to bankroll his discovery. He wants her to ask her mother for the money, but she refuses. The argument then becomes more and more heated. He tells her to use her college degree to get a teaching job if she’s so concerned about money or else she can “go peddle her ass” at the Green Lantern. The screaming then becomes so loud that the neighbors start gathering on the street discussing whether or not they should interfere. Suddenly, an oil painting and an easel fly through the window, and that’s followed by Mom, who is dangling from the second floor. Dad grabs her by the arms and tries to pull her in while kids below begin to imitate her movements by pretending to be monkeys. When it looks like Dad might not be able to hold her, the kids run in and grab Dad until he’s able to pull her in. Mom accuses Dad of trying to kill her, while Dad declares that she jumped. The kids do their best to comfort their parents while Jeannette says over and over, “Everything’s okay now.”

Notes

This section exemplifies what happens when hunger enters the picture of a family in crisis. The children must learn to beg, borrow or steal, because they have parents who are unconcerned about their hunger. There is also the implication of Mom’s selfishness - she wanted the margarine for herself. Her frustration at the children’s hunger may really be a façade that she didn’t get to eat and they did. This makes the children’s comforting of both parents at the end even more poignant - they offer comfort to the parents who would think nothing of stealing food right out of their mouths.

The argument between Rose Mary and Rex is very dramatic. Ironically, the children are not at all embarrassed, because they’re so used to this behavior.

 

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