Free Study Guide for The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls|
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THE GLASS CASTLE ONLINE STUDY GUIDE BY JEANETTE WALLS
How absolutely typical Rose Mary Walls behaves in this section. Her
mother has died, but to Rose Mary, who had had only a contentious relationship
with her, her loss is actually quite exciting. Grandma had left a house
and money, and now Rose Mary can do what her mother always despised -
practice her art. Jeannette’s sense of loss, however, is more palpable:
she feels betrayed that her mother hadn’t told them Grandma was dead and
her feelings are transferred into a physical attack on Mom. Grandma had
recognized what made Jeannette special while her own mother couldn’t be
bothered to even learn.
The new house is large enough for two families. Jeannette counts fourteen rooms, all filled with furniture and things that Mom had inherited from Grandma Smith. In the front yard is a palm tree that Jeannette particularly loves, because it makes her think she has arrived at an oasis. The people living on the same street are mostly Mexicans and Indians who go to the Catholic school at St. Mary’s Church. However, Mom wants the kids to go to a public school called Emerson. Because they are not on the bus route, they have to walk to school, but none of them minds at all. The school is in a fancy neighborhood with a playground surrounded by lush grass. Once each of the three reads aloud for their teachers, they are moved into the gifted reading groups. Brian hates it, because all the other kids in his group are older, but Jeannette and Lori are secretively thrilled to be special. When Dad hears that they’re “special” he tells them not to make fun, because he’s always told them that. Brian then says, “If we’re so special, why don’t you . . .“ Unfortunately, he can’t bring himself to finish what he wants to say.
When the school nurse discovers Lori has eye problems, she insists that she cannot stay at Emerson unless Mom and Dad allow the school to buy her glasses. They are ugly things with very thick lenses, but Lori is amazed at how little she has been able to see. That now explains why she never wanted to go exploring with Brian and Jeannette. Not long after she gets her glasses, Lori decides she wants to be an artist like Mom.
As soon as they are settled into the house, Mom throws herself into her art career. She erects a sign outside and begins buying supplies, including a thorough art reference library that is composed of pictures cut out of magazines and pasted into their own binders. The girls spend hours completing the binders. Mom is also hard at work on her writing. She has purchased several typewriters so she always has back-up machines. She writes novels, poetry, plays, short stories and a book of pithy sayings entitled R. M. Walls’ Philosophy of Life. Her favorite saying in the book is, “Life is a bowl of cherries, with a few nuts thrown in.”
Dad joins the electrical union, and he very quickly lands a job. As a surprise to the kids, he brings home brand new bicycles, something they have never owned before. He also apologizes to Jeannette for not counting her rock collection as one item and so making her leave all but one behind. The kids ride their bikes everywhere, including the Civic Center where there is a library. They are there so often that the librarians recognize them and help them finding books they’d like. Then, they pedal all the way home, down the middle of the sidewalk, just as if they own the place. It is an exhilarating freedom.
The family also installs their first telephone and buys a big record
player in a wooden cabinet. It prompts Mom to buy all kinds of music albums
at thrift shops, and she and Dad dance to everything from polkas to German
marching bands. They buy an electric washing machine as well, but Mom
still refuses to kill the flies that enter the house. Unfortunately, they
are soon overwhelmed by roaches, and, because Mom won’t allow chemicals
in the house, they get up at night with their “roach killers,” their shoes,
and beat them to death. To add to the beginning of new troubles, the house
is termite-infested. As a result, whenever they hit a soft spot in the
floor, they crash through it. Dad repairs the holes by drinking a beer
and using the metal can as a patch.
This section is not only an introduction to the new house, but it is also an examination of how the family is once again slowly falling apart. First, they spend too much money and second they don’t make the repairs or keep conditions livable within it. On the other hand, the children know a freedom that is even greater than that which their parents gave them through neglect. They have their bikes and they can go anywhere with them.
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Clapsaddle, Diane. "TheBestNotes on The Glass Castle".
. 09 May 2017