Study Guide

Rose Mary Walls (Mom) in The Glass Castle

By Jeannette Walls

Rose Mary Walls (Mom)

Center of the Universe

Mom treads the fine line between optimism and delusion. This could be a positive thing, we suppose, but the fact is that Mom spends more time on the delusion side of the fence. She always looks on the bright side of life, but by doing so, she turns life into an absurd Monty Python skit. One notable instance of this is when she leaves a piano outside and says, "Most pianists never get the chance to play in the great out-of-doors" (2.12.12). That's optimistic and more or less harmless.

But Mom also says things like, "I've spent my life taking care of other people […] Now it's time to take care of me" (4.4.5). Um, Mom has spent about three hours of her entire life caring for people. Here, she just comes across as selfish and delusional, a dangerous combo.

Worst of all, Mom will never change. She says, "I like the world just fine the way I see it" (2.22.28). Yes, because the way she sees it, everything revolves around her.

Adventure Addicts Anonymous

Mom does have a sad background, which helps to explain why she tries so hard to stay positive. She's often abused by her husband, yet she spins abuse as "excitement," saying things like, "I'm such an excitement addict!" (2.20.17). In a way, of course, she's set herself up for this. Excitement, in many ways, is all about feeling free from responsibility, and Mom's is more than happy to let Dad make her feel "free."

Mom seems resigned to the fact that her husband controls her life, and she doesn't try to break out of it. Even her wedding story involves Dad demanding to marry her and her just sort of conceding. "Your father wouldn't take no for an answer" (2.5.11), she tells Jeannette. Not exactly romantic.

Mom's story is especially tragic when you consider that, for whatever reason, she ran away from her own mother. Like Jeannette, Mom was a woman trying to get away and become the total opposite of her own mother. Yet Mom still finds herself trapped by a man. Jeannette, of course, is also determined to not be like her mother. But Jeannette wants to face her problems head on instead of always running away. And this memoir sure does show us the results of each kind of attitude.