Full title  The Glass Castle: A Memoir

Author Jeannette Walls

Type of work Memoir

Genre Bildungsroman, memoir, creative nonfiction

Language English

Time and place written Early 2000s, New York

Date of first publication March 2005

Publisher Simon & Schuster

Narrator Jeannette Walls narrates the details of her childhood.

Point of view Jeannette Walls narrates in the first person, describing the events of her childhood. She focuses on her thoughts and emotions at the time instead of offering insight and analysis from her adult self.

Tone Observational, matter-of-fact, detached

Tense Past

Setting (time) Early 1960s to 2000

Setting (place) Across the American Southwest; San Francisco; Welch, West Virginia; New York City

Protagonist Jeannette Walls

Major conflict As Jeannette struggles with her complicated feelings toward Mom and Dad, she must also survive and adapt to the extreme situations their recklessness places in her in.

Rising action Mom and Dad’s ambivalence repeatedly place Jeannette and her three siblings at risk of starvation, serious physical injury, sexual assault, and hypothermia. Rex dazzles the children by framing their lifestyle as exciting and adventurous, but the children slowly realize, each in their own time, that they are in danger and her father’s promises of a better life are empty. Jeannette finally confronts her parents about not taking better care of them and refuses to apologize. This moment crystalizes Jeannette’s realization that her parents will never take care of her and cements her desire to escape.

Climax Maureen stabs Rose Mary and is sent to rehab, sending the Walls children into a shared state of sadness, and they become further distanced from their parents. Rex also falls ill, and, expecting to die within weeks, has an important final conversation with Jeannette where the two affirm their love for one another and give each other closure. Rex dies soon after of a heart attack.

Falling action The adult siblings continue to live in the space between "turbulence and order" as they develop their careers and relationships, and yet they still deal with the trauma of their family lineage.

Themes Strength from Hardship, Compassion vs. Boundaries, Abuse

Motifs Fire, Animals, Hypocrisy

Symbols The Glass Castle, Stars, Joshua Trees

Foreshadowing When Dad and Jeannette pretend to go Demon Hunting, this foreshadows when they will go “Pervert Hunting” after Jeannette is molested in Phoenix. Jeannette thinks Uncle Stanley is too touchy when they first meet, which foreshadows him molesting her a couple years later.