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Free Study Guide for The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

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SECTION TWELVE (Pages 277-279)


Jeannette hardly ever sees her parents after the fiasco with Maureen, nor even Brian or Lori. “Something in all of them broke that day, and afterward, they no longer have the spirit for family gatherings.”

About a year after Maureen leaves, Jeannette receives a call from Dad, who asks her to come see him, because he needs to talk to her. At the end of the conversation, he slips in a request for some vodka, and Jeannette is annoyed, believing that’s the only reason why he called. She asks her mother if she should buy the alcohol. Her mother says, “Your father is who he is. It’s a little late in the game to try to reform him now. Humor the man.” So, Jeannette agrees and picks up a half gallon of the cheapest vodka she can find.

When she arrives at the squatter’s apartment, she finds Mom and Dad in their bed covered with a thin blanket. It seems like they’ve been there all day. Dad’s voice is choked with gratitude when he sees that Jeannette has brought him a magnum. He says, “You are so good to your old man.” Jeannette sees that Mom looks well with a pink, healthy glow while Dad is gaunt and pale. She asks him why he is growing beard, and he says that every man should grow one at least once in his life. Jeannette asks more strongly, “Why now?” and Dad says, “It’s now or never. The fact is, I’m dying.” He starts his usual explanation for things by saying that he contracted a rare tropical disease, a ridiculous yarn. The truth is, Dad has smoked four packs of cigarettes a day since he was thirteen, and he puts away two quarts of booze a day. “But despite all the hell raising and destruction and chaos he has created in their lives, Jeannette cannot imagine what her life will be like . . . without him. As awful as he can be, she has always known he loves her in a way no one else ever has.”

Rex looks at his daughter and says, “You always loved your old man, didn’t you?” One of his great regrets is never having built the Glass Castle to which Jeannette responds that they had fun planning it. He then tells her that every time he looks at her, he figures he must have done something right, given how well she has turned out. Jeannette agrees, and they talk about the past until she feels it’s time to leave. Dad says with a wink as she heads for the door, “Hey, have I ever let you down?” This is followed by a chuckle, because he knows that there is only one way she can answer that question. Jeannette smiles and then closes the door.


This section is quite sad, because Dad’s fate is sealed because of all of his stupid choices, but he wants his daughter to know that he has always loved her. And even though he uses his usual comment of how he never let her down, and even though Jeannette knows that he’s nearly always let her down, it is a statement that will forever bond them to each other. It leaves the reader feeling sad about the loss of so much potential.

SECTION THIRTEEN (Pages 280-281)


Two weeks after Jeannette visits him, Dad dies of a heart attack. When she arrives at the emergency room, he is being kept alive with machines. They all know that he wouldn’t have wanted that, and an hour later, they turn off the machines. While standing there looking at Dad, his eyes closed, Jeannette has the urge to pick him up in her arms and charge through the doors, checking out Rex Walls - style one last time. Then, after he is gone, she finds herself always wanting to be somewhere other than where she is. She begins ice-skating, because the fast-paced maneuvers help distract her and exhaust her to the point where she doesn’t have to think. She eventually realizes that being on the move isn’t enough; she needs to reconsider everything.

A year after Dad’s death, Jeannette leaves Eric. She knows he’s a good man, but not the right man for her. She doesn’t really belong on Park Avenue, and so she takes a small apartment of the West Side. It feels right. She goes ice-skating less often, and her compulsion to move begins to fade. She begins instead to go for long walks at night and on clear nights, she sees Venus on the horizon, up over the dark water, glowing steadily.


The motif of movement as a means of escape fills Jeannette as she looks at her dying father and it is movement that hounds her as she grieves for him. In the end, his death helps her understand where she really belongs, and as she walks at night she sees Venus, the gift he had given for Christmas all those years ago.


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