Study Guide

The Glass Castle Wealth

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We bought so much food that we never had much money come pay-day. (2.13.12)

As a child, Jeannette equates money with food. When the family has money, they can eat, and this is a rare time of prosperity for the family.

Once we lost our credit at the commissary, we quickly ran out of food. (2.17.9)

Jeannette's parents don't seem to realize that they need to buy food to survive. They don't care if they're poor and the children can't eat. They can always scavenge, right?

I wondered if he didn't really want to be around us unless he could provide for us. (2.17.11)

Dad's ego is a fragile thing, and it's bolstered by how much money is able to earn for the family. When the family is broke, Dad's ego is broken, too. Not that he ever really manages to do much about it.

Mom's salary created a whole new set of problems. (2.19.3)

It seems like having money would solve all the family's problems, but it doesn't—mostly because Dad takes all the money. The family would be a lot more stable if Dad didn't waste the money. So why does he keep doing it?

Mom decided Maureen needed to enroll in preschool, but she said she didn't want her youngest daughter dressed in the thrift-store clothes the rest of us wore. Mom told us we would have to go shoplifting. (2.25.5)

The family has to resort to desperate measures when they are poor. But this quote also shows Mom's inconsistent morals. She doesn't care if anyone thinks her older children are poor, but she doesn't want her baby girl to look like she grows up in poverty. What gives, Mom?

Dad devised an ingenious way to come up with extra cash. (2.25.10)

Here's an ingenious way to come up with cash, Dad: get a job. But Dad only wants to earn money through creative-slash-shady means. Maybe he thinks he can earn more that way, but eventually, you'd think he would realize that his plans have a habit of, like, not working out.

"We don't accept handouts from anyone." (3.8.2)

Even though they are poor, the family has pride. But perhaps if they would be less prideful, they wouldn't be as poor. Maybe what they need to find a way to strike a balance.

"You'll never make a fortune working for the boss man," he said. (3.11.1)

Dad should cut this sentence off after "fortune." Dad will never make a fortune, period, but he is either too determined or too delusional to give up. And it appears that all Dad wants is to make a fortune; he doesn't want to have to just make a nice sum to buy a house and food for his family.

So even though she had a steady job, we were living pretty much like we had before. (3.17.14)

It's almost impossible to climb up the economic ladder. Something always pulls the family back down—but in the Wallses case, it's specifically Dad holding them back. And Mom, too, since she also has lots of trouble actually keeping a job.

Could she have solved our financial problems by selling this land she never even saw? (4.10.18)

We never get an emotional reaction from Jeannette when she finds out that Mom may have been sitting on a million dollars. The Wallses were scrounging for food from garbage cans when Mom had land worth a million dollars. How do you think this makes Jeannette feel? Angry? Upset? All of the above?

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