Study Guide

The Glass Castle Freedom and Confinement

By Jeannette Walls

Freedom and Confinement

When Jeannette Walls listens to John Mellencamp's song "Small Town," she probably has heart palpitations. That song is a nostalgic look at small-town life, but John's small towns are not Jeannette's small towns. In The Glass Castle, Jeannette's small-town experience isn't like a warm hug; it's like something smothering her. John Mellencamp "married an L.A. doll and brought her to this small town," but Jeannette Walls never looked back once she got away.

Questions About Freedom and Confinement

  1. Why does Dad feel stifled by cities? What draws him to the wilderness?
  2. What does Jeannette find in New York City that she never would have found in Welch or any other small town?
  3. How do the kids adjust to their restrictive environments, like living in small towns or being trapped in Erma's basement? What do they do to keep themselves sane?

Chew on This

For Dad, who wants to live in the wilderness but isn't good at it, living in a small town is a compromise between living in the outdoors and living in a big city.

New York City gives Jeannette choices and the ability to find the right mix of freedom and confinement to suit her life. It doesn't impose confinement upon her as the small towns do.

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