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Free Study Guide for The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

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SECTION TWENTY (Pages 81-90)


Some people like to make fun of Battle Mountain. In fact, a newspaper in the east held a contest to find the ugliest, most forlorn, most godforsaken town in the whole country and Battle Mountain won. However, Jeannette is happy there. Dad is on the verge of perfecting his invention, Lori and Mom can paint and read together, and Maureen can run outside with no diaper. She believes that their days of packing up and running away in the middle of the night are over.

Just after Jeannette’s eighth birthday, Billy Deel and his dad move into the Tracks. He is an odd-looking child with a lopsided head and is always moving around like he’s itchy. He’s only eleven, but keeps a pack of Marlboros in his sleeve, and he lives in a house made of tarpaper and corrugated tin. He also has a lot of unsupervised time on his hands, because his dad spends his days in the mine and his nights at the Owl Club. Billy is also a certified juvenile delinquent, having spent time in a detention center in Reno for shoplifting and vandalizing cars. What’s the biggest problem about him is that he starts following Jeannette around and telling people that he is her boyfriend. Jeannette, of course, denies it, but there is something fascinating about him anyway.

One day, Billy tells Jeannette that he wants to show her something funny. He takes her to his house, and there is his dad, lying passed out drunk on a dirty mattress. His penis is hanging out of his pants, and he has just pissed himself. Billy’s laughter prompts Jeannette to tell him he shouldn’t laugh at his father. Billy tells her she shouldn’t act so high and mighty, that her father is nothing more than a drunk like his. Jeannette answers, “My daddy’s nothing like your daddy! When my daddy passes out, he never pisses himself!” When Jeannette tells the family about it at dinner that night, Mom says she should show more compassion for Billy, because he’s an unloved child. Unloved children become serial murderers or alcoholics. Then she looks pointedly at Dad and continues, “He doesn’t have all the advantages you kids do.”

Billy tells Jeannette that if she won’t be his girlfriend that she’ll be sorry and then gives her a ring that looks suspiciously like one that her mother owns. However, she convinces herself that it just seems similar. She tells him she doesn’t want it, because she doesn’t want people thinking she’s his girlfriend. So she takes the ring, but she tells him she won’t wear it. Unfortunately, Billy tells everyone that she accepted his ring. Then, one day when all the kids in the neighborhood are playing hide and seek, Billy climbs into Jeannette’s hiding place in a small tool shed. She tells him he can’t come in, but he insists, and in the next few minutes, Billy tries to rape Jeannette. They only way she can get him to back off is to bite his ear as hard as she can. When the kids hear him scream, they come running, and it looks as if Jeannette had willingly kissed Billy and allowed him to remove her clothes. So, the next day, she takes the ring back to his house. After she leaves it with him, he picks it up, throws it at her, and yells out that he raped her. Jeannette has to check the dictionary to find out what rape means and is still unsure of what almost happened to her. However, she knows she will never ask Dad what it means like she usually would.

The next day, Lori, Brian and Jeannette are playing five-card draw when they hear Billy call out Jeannette’s name. Lori gets up and tells Billy to go away, but quickly comes back in and says he has a gun. It’s only a BB gun, but Billy says that he told Jeannette she’d be sorry, and he begins to pull the trigger over and over. Lori runs upstairs, as the others take cover, and finds Dad’s pistol. She points it at Billy, but he says she doesn’t have the guts to fire it. However, Lori does fire it, and Billy disappears under the shot-out window. Jeannette then grabs the gun and fires, hitting the ground right at Billy’s feet. He jumps about three feet into the air and takes off running. At first, the girls laugh, but then they become silent, their hands shaking at what they have done. A little while later, a squad car pulls up to find out what happened. Jeannette says it was self-defense, but the policeman insists that the whole family will have to come to the magistrate’s office the next day to straighten everything out. That night, Dad says the family is leaving immediately for Phoenix. They are only allowed to bring one thing. Jeannette chooses her rock collection, but Dad says that is more than one thing and makes her choose only one of the rocks. Dad says their luck has run out. Jeannette wishes it had lasted longer, because she likes Battle Mountain. “In the pitch-black night, there is nothing to look at but the road ahead, lit by the car’s headlights.”


This section reinforces how the luck of the Walls family has a bad habit of running out. They like living in Battle Mountain and are relatively safe and fed there. However, along comes an individual like Billy Deel who is so dissatisfied with his own life that he has to disrupt the lives of others whom he perceives have rejected him. Then, the streak of good luck runs out, and the long dark road stretches out once again ahead of them.


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