The Glass Castle

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Part III: Welch (High School), continued

Summary Part III: Welch (High School), continued

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.

Analysis: Part III (High School), continued

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.