Study Guide

The Glass Castle Family

By Jeannette Walls

Family

"I am your mother, and I should have a say in how you're raised." (2.1.26)

This idea will come up later, when Jeannette accuses Mom of not acting like a mother. Mom doesn't have any desire to raise her own kids—she lets Jeannette cook at three years old, for Shmoop's sake—until someone else does parenting for her. Maybe she feels guilty.

"[My children] were all postmature. That's why they're so smart. Their brains had longer to develop." (2.10.5)

Mom has pride in her children, even if she has a weird way of expressing it.

Mom felt that Grandma Smith nagged and badgered, setting rules and punishments for breaking the rules. It drove Mom crazy, and it was the reason she never set rules for us. (2.21.2)

Mom seems to be the way she is because she is determined to be the exact opposite of her own mother. Speaking of which, it sure does take Mom a long time to mature, herself…

"You'd be weird, too, if Erma was your mom." (3.5.25)

Lori makes a good point about Dad. But what is unspoken here is that all the Walls children are "weird" because of their own parents. But how do their parents make them weird? Or are they relatively normal, considering their upbringing?

I believed she thought of her paintings as children and wanted them to feel that they were all being treated equally. (3.6.30)

If Mom treated her paintings as children, she'd put them in a cardboard box and let them fend for themselves. In some ways, Mom actually treats her paintings better than she treats her own kids. What's up with her priorities?

"We may not have insulation," Mom said as we all gathered around the stove, "but we have each other." (3.12.9)

Mom should write greeting cards with wisdom like this. However, Mom isn't a exactly warm and fuzzy kind of gal, so maybe "having each other" isn't going to provide the family with much of anything, after all.

Dad wheeled around and gave Lori such a cold, angry look that I thought he might wallop her. "She was my mother, for God's sake," he said. (3.13.6)

Even though Erma was sexually abusive and an all-around nasty person, Dad still defends her, solely because she was his mother. Why do the kids in this book defend their abusive parents? Do the parents guilt them into feeling this way? Or is it something else?

But if the child-welfare man got it into his head that we were an unfit family, we'd have no way to drive him off. He'd launch an investigation and end up sending me and Brian and Lori and Maureen off to live with different families, even though we all got good grades and knew Morse code. (3.16.22)

The Walls family is less than ideal, to put it mildly. But Jeannette would rather have the family she knows than a family she doesn't. However, she is more concerned with her siblings, not really her parents.

"If you want to be treated like a mother," I said, "you should act like one." (3.22.15)

There's a role reversal here as Jeannette enters high school. This is the point at which she becomes more of a mother to her younger siblings than her own mother is. This causes some tension; Mom doesn't really want to have all the responsibilities of being a mom, but she doesn't want anyone to point that out to her, and she doesn't want anyone to take over her role either, obviously.

"So we could be a family again." (4.2.14)

The Walls family was never one big happy family, but the kids were the only people Mom and Dad had. When the kids leave, Mom and Dad have to follow them—or be left with nothing but each other.