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Free Study Guide for The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

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THE GLASS CASTLE NOTES CRITICISM BY JEANETTE WALLS

PART TWO - THE DESERT

SECTION EIGHTEEN (Pages 73-75)

Summary

The next morning, Mom rises early and takes the kids to school. While she’s there, she applies for a teaching job and is hired immediately. There are never enough teachers in Battle Mountain. Mom is assigned to Lori’s class, and her students really like her, because she runs her classroom with the same attitude as she runs her home - no rules. Ironically, the ones who are considered to be problem children or mentally slow begin doing well. They even follow her around like stray dogs.

Even though her students like her so much, Mom hates teaching. She hates it, because her own mother had forced her into the profession as a fallback job, which always makes her think her mother didn’t believe she had any artistic ability. Now, by becoming a teacher, she feels she’s acknowledging that her mother was right all along.

The real problem with Mom returning to teaching is that the principal and the other teachers think she’s a terrible teacher. The fact that she doesn’t seem to be able to control her classroom seems to reflect badly on them. When the principal threatens to fire her, Lori and Jeannette begin grading her papers and picking up her room every night after school. They also correct her spelling. Lori loves helping Mom this way. In fact, she is the one who understands Mom better than anyone else. One time, when the principal comes in to observe Mom, Lori even allows Mom to paddle her to demonstrate that Mom has control of her students.


Notes

This section continues the poignancy of the children being the adults in the family and the parents acting like children. Mom is totally incapable of being an organized, in control teacher, but her daughters do everything they can to make her successful.


SECTION NINETEEN (Pages 76-80)

Summary

Jeannette thinks that Mom’s teaching job will allow them to buy new clothes, eat cafeteria lunches, or even get class pictures. Most of those things don’t happen, but things do improve. Nonetheless, a whole new set of problems emerges with her new job - Dad maintains, as the so-called head of the house that her money should be turned over to him. She, of course, knows this is a recipe for disaster and tries everything she knows to keep it from him. Eventually, Dad begins coming to the school on payday and taking the check, escorting Mom into the bank, and taking the money after the check is cashed. Once, she puts the money in a sock and hands it to Jeannette and tells her to hide it, all in front of Dad. Dad asks Mom if she thinks he’s an idiot and calmly asks Jeannette to borrow the sock for a second. Jeannette hands it over, and Dad gets his way.

Soon, they are out of money again. Jeannette, Lori and Brian go to school without any lunch. One day, Dad appears with a grocery sack full of lunch food. He asks them, “Have I ever let you down?” and Brian says softly under his breath, “Yes.”

Lori finally decides that Dad has to start carrying his weight, and the children discuss whether his inventions are his way of carrying his weight. He had once told Jeannette that she was his favorite child. So now she remembers when he said, “. . . I think you’re the only one around who still has faith in me. I don’t know what I’d do if you ever lost it.” She promises herself that she never will.

A few months after Mom starts working at the school, the kids are walking home and pass the Green Lantern once again. A girl there named Ginger calls out to Brian, but this time, he refuses to answer. Jeannette finally gets him to explain why. It seems that on his birthday, Dad had taken Brian to the Owl Club and then allowed him to pick out any item he wanted in the drugstore. Brian chose a Sad Sack comic book. This was followed by a trip to the Green Lantern. Dad, Ginger, and Brian had gone upstairs to a suite of rooms. Brian was left in the front room to read his comic book while Dad and Ginger went into the other room. When they came out, she sat down next to Brian and admired his birthday gift. Dad then made him give it to her as the gentlemanly thing to do. Jeannette realizes from Brian’s reaction that this was about more than just a lost comic book. He has figured out something about Ginger and the other ladies. Maybe now he knows why Mom says they are bad. So Jeannette asks him if he knows what they do inside the Green Lantern. Brian just answers that Ginger makes a lot of money and should buy her own darn comic book.

Notes

This important aspect of this section is how all the incidents explain how terribly Rex and Rose Mary take advantage of their children. They are users and intimidators and they often put the children into the middle of their arguments. They even use them as a screen for their own pleasures and think nothing of giving gifts only to take them back to make themselves look good. Brian is the next to youngest child, but he knows that Dad cheats them and their Mom and frequently lets them all down, even though he wants to believe he never does.

 

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