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Free Study Guide for The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

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This is the last page of the free study guide for "The Glass Castle".
The complete study guide is currently available as a downloadable PDF, RTF, or MS Word DOC file from the PinkMonkey MonkeyNotes download store. The complete study guide contains summaries and notes for all of the chapters; detailed analysis of the themes, plot structure, and characters; important quotations and analysis; detailed analysis of symbolism, motifs, and imagery; a key facts summary; detailed analysis of the use of foreshadowing and irony; a multiple-choice quiz, and suggested book report ideas and essay topics.



CHAPTER SUMMARY FOR THE GLASS CASTLE BY JEANETTE WALLS

PART TWO - THE DESERT

SECTION TWENTY-FIVE (Pages 110-115)

Summary

Around this time, Dad loses his job again, again, and again. After the third time, he is kicked out of the electrical union and must scrape by with odd jobs and day work. All the inherited money is also gone, so the kids must get by on one meal a day that they get at school. They also resume their food search mentality, even to dumpster diving, one of which consistently produces discarded chocolate. Maureen, meanwhile, has few people around her so creates a whole truckload of imaginary friends. She talks to them consistently as she rides her tricycle around the block. As a result, Mom decides that Maureen must enroll in preschool. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have any clothes, so Mom teaches Jeannette and Lori how to shoplift. She calls it “justifiable pilfering,” sort of like justifiable homicide. She explains that God doesn’t mind if you have a good reason. They are able to steal three or four good dresses by using Mom’s plan, but eventually they are caught and have to pay fourteen dollars for a dress they were going to steal. Mom calls it “highway robbery!”

Dad also comes up with an ingenious way of obtaining extra cash. He figures out that when you make a withdrawal from the drive-through at a bank, it takes a few minutes for the transaction to register. So, he opens a bank account, and while Mom is withdrawing from the drive-through, he is withdrawing from inside the bank. “Lori says it sounds outright felonious, but Dad says all he is doing is outsmarting the fat-cat bank owners who shylock the common man by charging usurious interest rates. ‘Wear innocent expressions,’ Mom says.” It works.

Dad tells the family that he is having trouble getting work, because the electricians’ union is corrupt, and he has to run the Mob out of town. That means he has to hang out at bars to get information he can turn over to the police. Mom just rolls her eyes at his explanation. Of course, he is just getting drunk, and when he comes home, he’s usually in a rage, breaking and destroying things. Whenever Jeannette tries to clean up after him once he passes out, Mom says no, because “your father needs to see the mess he’s making of our lives.” While he’s passed out, Mom teaches the kids to pick his pockets. Once when Jeannette pries his fingers away from a half-empty bottle, she decides to try it. She’s amazed that he can find anything good about it. Brian empties it into the sink and then shows her a toy box in the shed filled with empty bottles. He knows that when Dad sees an empty bottle he goes berserk again, so Brian hides them until he can safely take them to a garbage can a few blocks away.

Early in December, Mom tells the kids she has a really good feeling about Christmas this year. She decides they will celebrate it at the normal time and begins shopping at the thrift shops where she’s an expert in getting the best price. She finds a dried out Douglass fir at a gas station selling Christmas trees and offers the man three bucks for it. When he sees the three kids, he gives it to her for a dollar. They set it up in the house and decorate it with Grandma Smith’s antique ornaments. Then, they go to Midnight Mass where Dad, of course, makes a fool of himself, and they are escorted out once again. He says crude things on the way home as well, and Jeannette, who doesn’t like him this way, tries to move away from him. However, he holds her tight against him. When they get into the house, Dad says, “Let’s really light up this bastard,” and shoves his lighter into the tree branches. The tree is so dry that it goes up in flames, and the only way they’re able to put out the fire is to knock down the tree and hit it with blankets and water. In the process, they break all the antique ornaments and ruin their presents. The whole time, Dad sits there and laughs. Once the fire is out, no one tries to wring Dad’s neck for ruining their Christmas. Jeannette says, “When Dad goes crazy, we all have our own ways of shutting down and closing off, and that was what we did that night.”


Notes

This section is an examination of the coping skills the family, especially the children, use to adjust to the both the physical and emotional violence they face nearly every day. They cheat and steal, get food from a dumpster, and put out the fire their father deliberately sets. There are no voices of recrimination afterwards, because they have learned to shut down and to close off from what makes their lives a mess.


SECTION TWENTY-SIX (Pages 116-121)

Summary

The following spring, Jeannette turns ten, but birthdays are not a big deal around their house. Mom might stick some candles in some ice cream or buy them a comic book or even some underwear, but mostly birthdays were just forgotten. So Jeannette is surprised when Dad takes her outside and asks her what she wants most in the world. Dad says no matter what it is, he’ll get it for her. She’s afraid to ask for what she really wants, because she fears his reaction. However, she finally gathers the courage and says, “Do you think you can maybe stop drinking?” Dad says nothing at first and then finally remarks, “You must be awfully ashamed of your old man.” Jeannette quickly reassures him that his observation is wrong but that not drinking would make Mom happy and provide extra money in the house. He asks her to leave him alone for a while.

In the morning, he tells the kids he wants them to steer clear of him for a few days. He is going to stay in the bedroom, and he wants them to play outside or downstairs. When Jeannette arrives home from school, she can hear terrible groans coming from the bedroom. When she goes inside, she sees him lying there moaning, calling out for help and pulling against the restraints that keep him in the bed. He is also gray and dripping with sweat. He is going cold turkey, and his delirium tremors continue for day. Jeannette begs her mother to help him, but Mom replies that only he knows how to fight his own demons.

After the better part of a week, the delirium stops, but Dad is weak and lacks an appetite. Jeannette asks Lori what she thinks life will be like now, but Lori just says nothing will change, because he tried quitting alcohol before and it never lasted. Jeannette is sure it will this time, because it is his present to her.

To put some distance between himself and drinking, Dad decides the family should take a trip to the Grand Canyon. They start out in the morning, and Dad decides to see how fast the car will go. They are well past one hundred when the car begins to clank, cough, and slow down. They pull it to the side of the road, and Dad and Brian look in to see if they can fix the engine. Jeannette is sure they can fix it, but Lori turns on her by asking why Jeannette always encourages Dad. Jeannette looks up into the sky and sees the buzzards circling and is reminded of Buster and how mean he had been. She thinks that too much hard luck can create permanent meanness of spirit in any creature.

Since Dad doesn’t have the right tools to fix the car, they postpone the trip to the Grand Canyon, and Dad decides they’ll have to walk the eighty miles home. They leave everything except Maureen’s lavender blanket. They walk for a while, and eventually a woman in an air-conditioned Buick stops and offers them a ride. She even has a picnic basket of food for them. She keeps calling them “poor people,” and Jeannette objects and tells her so. The balance of the trip is quiet and tense as a result, and when they get home, Dad disappears. Jeannette waits for him on the front steps until bedtime, but he doesn’t come home.

Notes

Rex’s decision to overcome his alcohol addiction is admirable in that he loves his daughter enough that he’s willing to experience the pain as a gift for her. However, there is the sense that he doesn’t have the strength of character to stay sober. This is seen in his immature behavior with the speed of the car and how he disappears when the lady who picks them up keeps referring to the family as “poor people.”

This is the last page of the free study guide for "The Glass Castle".
The complete study guide is currently available as a downloadable PDF, RTF, or MS Word DOC file from the PinkMonkey MonkeyNotes download store. The complete study guide contains summaries and notes for all of the chapters; detailed analysis of the themes, plot structure, and characters; important quotations and analysis; detailed analysis of symbolism, motifs, and imagery; a key facts summary; detailed analysis of the use of foreshadowing and irony; a multiple-choice quiz, and suggested book report ideas and essay topics.

 

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