The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls Summary Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of The Glass Castle

Plot Summary Part 1

Jeannette starts the story as an unsupervised three year old girl cooking hot dogs. She gets lit on fire and gets badly burned over much of her body. Her parents don't feel guilty about their lack of supervision or what happened to her, they think the incident will only make her tougher and understand better how to deal with fire. After Jeannette got burned her Dad even played with holding her hand over a flame. Her Dad was not only insensitive to Jeannette's ordeal but felt no guilt over his role in what happened.

Jeannette 's family moved around small western towns one step ahead of bill collectors in her early years.

Jeannette's mom taught Jeannette to drink water from a ditch as long as other animals were drinking from it, it helped create antibodies to drink ditch water.

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Her Dad taught her to shoot a pistol at the age of four, unconcerned about the possibility that a four year old might accidently shoot herself.

Jeannette had no shoes and so when she walked in the desert, she often burned her feet.

The family was always short of food. One time when a cantaloupe truck overturned, her Dad stole a lot of cantaloupes and for weeks they ate cantaloupes--plain, boiled, fried, every combination you can think of.

Jeannette's Dad promised for years to build a fantastic house called "The Glass Castle". He talked about it for years. It would have glass ceilings, glass walls, even a glass staircase and be fully high-tech. He never built it, and in reality the family lived their life in one broken down shack after another.

Similarly, Jeannette's Dad promised to build a device called the "Prospector" which could find gold. He talked about the device for years but never completed it.

Jeannette's parents were very neglectful. One time Jeannette fell out of the family car and it took several hours for them to notice she was missing.

Another time her parents decided the kids would ride in the back of a U-Haul truck, even though there was no light and no ventilation. When the doors of the truck flung open enroute and the kids were almost sucked out, it was a horrifying experience for them. But when Jeannette's Dad found out what had happened, instead of being sympathetic or apologetic he was angry at them for letting this happen.

They moved to a mining town and lived in a train depot.  Jeannette's Mom didn't seem to care about cooking food for her children, she saw no sense in spending time to make food that would be eaten in minutes. So she only cooked once a week, and only cooked something basic, like beans, and forced the kids to eat beans for a week, even after the food started to spoil.

Jeannette was left unsupervised as she and her brother Brian took toxic chemicals from the depot and combined them and set them on fire, creating a large explosion. Jeannette's Dad wasn't concerned about their experimentation despite the obvious dangers.

Jeannette's Dad wanted to teach her how to swim so he took her to an incredibly hot sulfur spring and dunked her in the deep end. Jeannette nearly drowned but her father was unconcerned and didn't think that teaching his daughter to swim in an incredibly hot and deep body of water would be a safety hazard. He was completely oblivious to the threat.

When Jeannette's Mom was asked for food, instead of being embarrassed she'd simply shrug her shoulders and say there wasn't any. Jeannette used to rummage through the garbage at school stealing other students' discarded food.

One time all they had left in the house was margarine. Jeannette ate it, and when her Mom found out, instead of being worried that Jeannette could get sick from it, she was upset because now she wouldn't have butter for her bread.

Jeannette's Mom and Dad often had violent fights. One time Jeannette's Dad apparently shoved her Mom through a second story window and she dangled there for a while like a fish before he pulled her back in.

Jeannette's Mom finally got a job as a teacher to provide food for the family but she wasn't interested in keeping the job, she refused to grade papers and prepare lesson plans. So Jeannette and her sister Lori graded their Mom's school papers for her and helped her prepare her lesson plans. Jeannette's Mom was totally unconcerned with her kids going hungry. In fact, she was resentful that she had to work because it took time away from her painting. (She liked to paint.)

Meanwhile Jeannette's Dad was stealing the money Jeannette's Mom earned to get drunk with. Jeannette's Dad was an alcoholic.

Not only that, but Jeannette saw her Dad having sex with a prostitute. I guess he wanted some variety from Jeannette's Mom, heh heh.

As Jeannette got older, a boy named Billy tried to bone her. He gave her a wedding ring that had belonged to his mother. Then he stuck his tongue in her mouth, penetrating her orally.

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