I wondered if the fire were out to get me. I wondered if all fire was related, like Dad said all humans were related . . . I didn’t have the answers to those questions, but what I did know was that I lived in a world that at any moment could erupt into fire.
This quotation, which appears in Part II after the hotel in San Francisco catches fire, marks the first time Jeannette realizes that her life, although still exciting in her eyes, also has a threatening quality. At only four years old, Jeannette has encountered an inordinate number of fires, the first one landing her in the hospital for weeks. Although these fires are not related in any ancestral sense, as she supposes in the quote, they do share a common denominator: her parents’ negligence. Mom and Dad frequently leave her unattended with stoves and matches, and even encourage her to play with matches after her hospital stay. Jeannette displaces blame for the danger in her life on the fire itself instead of her parents because she still views Mom and Dad as heroic figures in her life. Jeannette’s understanding of the danger in her life as unpredictable, something that could happen at any time, underscores the lack of stability her parents offer her. Her world can change in an instant, catching on fire, because of her family’s nomadic and reckless lifestyle.