The Glass Castle

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Main Ideas

Key Facts

Main Ideas Key Facts

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.

climax 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.

falling action Dad whips Jeannette with a belt for disrespecting him. Outraged and fed up, Jeannette decides that she will leave Welch as soon as she can. Soon after, Jeannette and Lori make concrete plans to leave for New York City, and eventually follow through. Brian and Maureen later join them, and then Mom and Dad arrive. Dad dies after about ten years in New York.

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.