Jeannette Walls

Jeannette Walls' greatest attribute is her ability to forgive. Throughout this book, the reader can see how many times Jeannette would have been justified in hating her parents and abandoning them forever. However, she always finds a way to rise above those feelings and forgive them. She presents the events of her life with no self-pity, but just as a way of coming to terms with the incidents that molded her into the woman she becomes. She is intelligent and loyal and innovative as well. Without her plans and schemes, her siblings may have found themselves in foster homes early in their lives, but Jeannette always finds a way to keep them all together and protect her neglectful parents at the same time. She is a small, but powerful hero in the story.

Rex Walls

Rex is a very complex character. He undoubtedly spent most of his childhood being molested by his own mother and living with people who passed on their dysfunctional lifestyle to him. He is a brilliant man who shows signs of great potential in his life, but for whatever reasons, is unable to achieve it. He is successful at every job he accepts, but he really doesn't want to be held down to a schedule and be told what to do by other men. At the same time, he is so disgusted by his own character that the only thing that gets him through life is alcohol. Of course, when he drinks too much, he becomes mean and combative and often ruins his children's dreams to fulfill his own worthless needs. He demands respect as the father of the family, but does nothing to earn it. On the other hand, he tells wonderful stories, plays with his children, and protects them when he can. He believes strongly in the concept of family and tries to keep it together when they children become old enough h to leave his sphere of influence. In the end, he is a pitiful man who leaves the world with many regrets, but never that he loved his children.

Rose Mary Walls

Of all the family members, she is the one most easy to dislike. She is a free spirit who had a contentious relationship with her control freak of a mother. As a result, she never wants to be held within the normal boundaries of a wife and mother. She is frequently dominated by an alcoholic husband and feels dragged down by her children. She wants to be a great and famous painter, but even while she knows this is never going to happen, she continues to pursue this dream to the detriment of her children. She is also extremely selfish and steals food for herself while her children go hungry. She has a teaching degree, but has to be physically and emotionally forced to take a job. The worst thing she ever does is to refuse to sell land she owns in Texas that is worth a million dollars while the family lives in a house that has no indoor plumbing, an extremely leaky roof, and frequently no heat or electricity. Through all of this, she never feels guilty and uses her sense of entitlement to control her children.

Lori Walls

Even though she is the oldest child, Lori usually defers to Jeannette's assertive and perhaps more intelligent personality. She tends to be somewhat shy and for years doesn't even realize that not everyone has blurry vision. Only when she gets her first pair of glasses does she realize how beautiful the world can be. She is fiercely loyal to her family, but also supremely frustrated by what they do. She is also the one who wants to avoid conflict at all costs and is willing to compromise more readily. She seems to be the one who understands her mother the best and is always willing to comfort her when she needs to. She also has a strong well of courage within in her that allows her to take off and leave the family so she can survive and prosper in her life.

Brian Walls

As the only boy among the siblings, Brian's first and lasting trait is his power and strength. He becomes the one who sides with Jeannette in all the fights they must face in their lives. He is the one who becomes the great protector who is not afraid to take on those who are larger than he is. This is how he shows his loyalty to this family who drives him crazy. He also understands the most readily that their parents need to be forced to be responsible or face serious consequences. It's not surprising that a young man with his characteristics would become a successful police officer.

Maureen Walls

She is the most fragile of the four children, and by the end of the story, there is no resolution to the problem of her instability. From the beginning of her life, Maureen was passed around for others to care for her. She ran outside as a toddler without a diaper. As she began to grow older, she played with no friends and had to make up her own in a little fantasy world that would foreshadow her future. She is extremely attractive, but that seems to do her no good, because no one, not even Jeannette, is ever there for her. As a result, she drifts through her life and eventually has a mental health crisis. She stabs her own mother in retaliation for being told to leave their house and spends a year in jail. Then, she buys a ticket to California and is gone without any communication for five years. By the end of the story, there are only glimmers of hope that her brother and sisters will see her again.


Cite this page:

Clapsaddle, Diane. "TheBestNotes on A Long Way Gone". TheBestNotes.com.