Study Guide

The Glass Castle Identity

By Jeannette Walls

Identity

To the people walking by, she probably looked like any of the thousands of homeless people in New York City. (1.1.2)

Often homeless people blend together into one generic "homeless" identity, but Jeannette's story humanizes her mother and gives her a unique identity. Maybe a little too unique.

"No child is born a delinquent." (2.2.20)

Mom argues that nurture is more important than nature. But if that's the case, then we're a little surprised Jeannette doesn't become a delinquent. How is it that the Walls children turn out fairly okay, despite their awful childhoods?

Lori and I were secretly thrilled be called special. (2.22.8)

Jeannette's family doesn't have much, so an identity is one of the only things Jeannette can cling to and call her own.

"Don't be afraid to be smarter than they are." (3.3.14)

This could be seen as cocky, but Jeannette knows at an early age that she is smarter than many other kids. Being a brain is a way for her to define herself, even if it doesn't win her many friends.

"Life's too short to worry about what other people think," Mom said. "Anyway, they should accept us for who we are." (3.7.16)

Well, Mom's definitely got a positive attitude, even if she doesn't have much else. If there's anything she is good at—and this might be the only thing, besides making excuses—it's getting her kids to accept themselves.

She looked like any other Mom. (3.8.6)

Just as Jeannette shows us in the first paragraph that a homeless person can be a mom, here young Jeannette learns that a mom can also be a prostitute, not that you'd know it to look at her.

Being a strong woman was harder than I had thought. (3.21.3)

Jeannette only understands Mom when she puts herself in Mom's shoes. Does Mom return the favor? Do we ever see Mom actively trying to understand other people's points of view? Does she empathize with her children? With her husband?

What I loved most about calling myself a reporter was that it gave me an excuse to show up anyplace. (3.25.1)

Many people find their identities in high school, and Jeannette learns that she is meant to be a reporter. Or a busybody. After all, she becomes a gossip columnist as an adult.

"You West Virginia girls are one tough breed," he said. (4.1.9)

Jeanette has developed a solid identity as a tough broad, and she's only sixteen. When she arrives in New York City, her reputation precedes her among her sister's friends. That's a good thing to have if you're heading to NYC as a broke sixteen-year-old.

"She laughs just like you do." (5.1.15)

Jeannette might think she isn't like her mom, but there are parts of her and her mother that will always be similar. How do you think this makes Jeannette feel? Is she okay with it? Does she like it?