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When Jeannette starts high school, Dinitia tells Jeannette that her mother’s boyfriend has moved in. Later, she tells Jeannette she is pregnant. When Dinitia disappears, Jeannette hears that she stabbed her mother’s boyfriend to death.
Jeannette is disappointed that boys don’t like her. She describes herself as tall and pale with bright red hair and buck teeth. Jeannette works as a proofreader for the school newspaper, the Maroon Wave, and finds that she likes the professional, fast-paced atmosphere of a newsroom. The typesetter complains about the way Jeannette smells, so she starts taking baths at Uncle Stanley’s again, making sure to keep a safe distance.
The following summer, Mom goes to a conference in Charleston to renew her teaching license. Lori goes to a summer camp for gifted high school students, and Jeannette is excited to take control of the family budget. But when Dad asks for money, she finds herself unable to tell him no.
To pay Jeannette back for the money he’s used, he takes her to a bar, where he wins eighty dollars in a pool game against his friend Robbie. As part of the scheme to distract Robbie, Dad lets Robbie dance with Jeannette. After, Robbie takes Jeannette upstairs to his apartment, where he attempts to rape her. When Jeannette tells Dad that Robbie attacked her, Dad compares the incident to the time he threw Jeannette in the hot spring, knowing she’d figure out how to survive. He says they make a great team.
To make ends meet, Jeannette lies about her age to get a job at Becker’s Jewel Box. She likes the work, but Mr. Becker sometimes touches her inappropriately. When Mr. Becker refuses to let Jeannette earn commission, she steals a watch, but returns it a few days later because she’s afraid of losing her job.
Lori returns from camp renewed and inspired to leave Welch as soon as possible. Mom returns from Charleston and announces she will quit her teaching job and dedicate all her time to art. Furious and fed up, Jeannette confronts her parents for not being more responsible. Dad whips her with a belt for her disrespect. Jeannette runs outside to clear her head and decides she will also leave Welch. She buys a piggy bank to help her and Lori save for a new life in New York City.
Lori, Jeannette, and Brian save all the money they earn from odd jobs around Welch. One day, Jeannette comes home to find her piggy bank slashed and all the money gone. Dad vehemently denies stealing it and then disappears for three days. In the end, Jeannette secures Lori a summer babysitting job with a bus ticket to New York City as part of the payment.
Lori thrives in New York City, and Jeannette decides she will leave that summer and finish her senior year there. Dad tries to convince her to stay by showing her the blueprints to the Glass Castle, but she is determined to leave. Mournfully, Dad walks Jeannette to the bus station.
Dinitia’s plight underscores how racism and segregation enforce artificial divides between people who otherwise have a lot in common. Dinitia doesn’t identify the father when she tells Jeannette she is pregnant, but she later goes to prison for stabbing her mother’s boyfriend to death. Jeannette does not explicitly draw any conclusions, but the narration implies that Dinitia was raped by her mother’s boyfriend. From this incident, we can see that Dinitia and Jeannette’s families have quite a few similarities, including unsafe home environments, parents who put themselves before their children, and sexual violence. These parallels reveal that extreme poverty, regardless of its root causes, can have the same tragic consequences regardless of race. Furthermore, the town’s strained race relations prevent the girls from becoming very close. Had they been able to confide in each other, they could have at the very least provided some solace in mutual understanding. In this way, racism isolates Dinitia and Jeannette, depriving them of an ally.
Dad’s use of Jeannette to distract Robbie marks another shift in their relationship because Dad no longer treats her as his child. Dad actively encourages Jeannette to flirt with Robbie, a marked contrast to his childhood lesson of pervert hunting. When Jeannette confronts Dad after her escape, he cites their trip to the Hot Pot, indicating that he intentionally subjected Jeannette to the threat of sexual violence with Robbie, convinced that she could protect herself. Dad’s explanation perverts the lesson that Jeannette internalized at the Hot Pot when she was a little girl. At the Hot Pot, Dad promises that he only put her in danger so that she would learn to swim, or grow and become independent. With Robbie, Dad threw her in the proverbial pool so that they could win eighty dollars. A clue to this change in attitude lies in the way Dad says that they’re a team. This word choice shows that Dad now views Jeannette as his teammate, his equal, not his daughter whom he has a duty to protect.
Mom and Dad punish Jeannette for calling out their parenting skills because she directly challenges their authority, shattering the family narrative. When Dad whips Jeannette with a belt, it’s the first time either parent has disciplined their kids, which shows us how deeply Jeannette’s words have cut him. Throughout Jeannette’s childhood and up until Welch, the Walls family has always described themselves as creative and brilliant, and implied the children were lucky to have such wonderful parents. While their hardships in Welch have by now thoroughly shattered this illusion, Jeannette is the first to explicitly say so by accusing Mom and Dad of not acting like parents. She has not just called out Mom and Dad but completely broken through their self-images. Dad’s response, to impose physical punishment, reveals that he believes acting like a parent involves holding the power over one’s children, controlling them instead of guiding and protecting them.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Glass Castle!