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On her way to a party in New York City, Jeannette sees her mother (Mom) picking through a dumpster. Later, overwhelmed with guilt, she calls Mom when she returns to her upscale apartment to invite her to lunch. Mom refuses her offer to help and urges Jeannette to accept her family as they are.
Jeannette recounts her first memory in which she badly burns her three-year-old self while making hotdogs. Shortly after, her father (Dad) wakes up the family in the middle of the night and tells them they are leaving town. The family has a tendency of leaving to stay ahead of bill collectors, and most of their time is spent in various desert mining towns.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Part I & Part II: The Desert (First Memory)
Dad wishes to one day build his family the Glass Castle, a home made of glass. After Mom and Dad married, they quickly had four children, but one child died in infancy, resulting in Dad drinking frequently and being unable to hold down a job.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Part II: The Desert (Explanation of Glass Castle to San Francisco)
The family finds a place to live where Dad gets a job in a mine and Mom, now pregnant, spends her days working on her art. Dad loses his job and the family moves, but the kids have an altercation when Jeannette is jumped by her classmates. A few months after Mom gives birth to Maureen, the family moves again.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Part II: The Desert (San Francisco to Blythe)
Dad gets and loses a job in another mine, and the family resorts to stealing food until Mom takes a job teaching. Dad takes Jeannette’s brother Brian to dinner with Ginger, a woman who works at the brothel, and Brian later tells Jeannette that Dad went into a bedroom with Ginger. Billy Deel moves into town and crushes on Jeannette, but after Jeannette refuses him, Billy goes to Jeannette’s home with a BB gun and shoots at the house, drawing the attention of the police and forcing the family to leave.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Part II: The Desert (Battle Mountain)
Jeanette learns that Grandma Smith has passed away and that they will stay in an estate Mom inherited. Though the family finds material wealth in their new home, the house is in disarray, and one night, an intruder breaks into the house and molests Jeanette. Dad’s drinking grows more chaotic. After a failed trip to the Grand Canyon, Dad returns home drunk and attacks Mom, but the kids stop him.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Part II: The Desert (Phoenix)
The family moves to stay with Dad’s mother, Erma, and when the kids enroll in school, they struggle to assimilate. Jeannette and Dinitia become friends. When Erma uses a racial slur against Dinitia, Jeannette snaps at her. While Mom and Dad are away, the relationship between Erma and the children continues to worsen, and Jeannette catches Erma molesting Brian. Erma later banishes the family from her house.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Part III: Welch (Erma’s house)
The family moves to a house where most of their neighbors live on welfare, and the children encounter several violent incidents. As Dad continues to drink and disappear for days, the family’s resources dwindle, and they are forced to scavenge for food.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Part III: Welch (Little Hobart Street)
When Jeannette is molested by her Uncle Stanley, Mom brushes aside the incident. The house falls into further disarray and as the family nears starvation, the children beg Mom to divorce Dad so they can receive welfare, but she refuses. After an officer visits the home, Mom agrees to take a job teaching, and though the kids also take on jobs of their own, Dad continues to drain their money.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Part III: Welch (Winter, Spring, Summer)
When Jeannette starts high school, she works as a proofreader for the school newspaper. When Dad takes her to a bar, Jeannette is almost raped, and when she tells Dad about the incident, he says he knew she would figure out a way to survive. After Jeannette lashes out at her parents for not being more responsible, Jeannette, Lori, and Brian begin to save money to start a new life in New York City. Dad steals their money, but Jeannette secures Lori a job and they both move to New York City.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Part III: Welch (High School)
Jeannette lands a job as a reporter and then decides to go to Barnard College. After Maureen moves in with Lori, Mom and Dad also move to New York City, but they face financial struggles and eventually find themselves homeless.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Part IV: New York City (Arrival & Homelessness)
Dad spends weeks in the hospital, forcing him to get sober, and he lands a job upstate. When he returns, he immediately starts drinking again, and after Jeannette buys him clothes, he is offended that she would treat him like a charity case. Jeannette graduates and moves in with her boyfriend, Eric, and she gets a job writing gossip articles for a prestigious news outlet. Years later, after Maureen tries to stab Mom, she is sent to a psychiatric institute and the family drifts apart, until Dad dies of a heart attack and Jeannette divorces Eric.
Jeannette and her new husband, John, host Brian and Lori for Thanksgiving dinner, and the family gives a toast to Dad’s life.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Parts IV & V
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Glass Castle!