The Glass Castle: Section 2, Chapters 11-13

Summary – Section Two, Chapters Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen
When the baby was due, they moved to Blythe (which was a larger town). In their new apartment, the walls were so thin they could hear their neighbors talking. Most of them were Mexican migrant workers and Mom said how this would be good for the children as they would be able to pick up Spanish without studying.
Because they lived in ‘a big city’, they had to go to school now. Jeannette was in the first grade and was often asked to read out loud when the principal came in the classroom. The other pupils did not like her for this and because she was keen to answer questions. A few days after she started, four girls followed her and attacked her in an alleyway near her apartment. They beat her up and her father and Brian where at home when she got in and they saw her scrapes and bruises. When her father asked how many there were, she lied and said six.
The next day the same girls were waiting for her in the same place, but before they could attack her Brian jumped out and waved a branch at them. He tried to warn them off, but they just stared at him and laughed. They then surrounded him and beat him and Jeannette hit one of the girls with a rock. She was in turn pushed and kicked. When the girls left, Brian took her to a lettuce farm and they ate until their stomachs ached.
Two months after they moved to Blythe, Mom gave birth. The children waited in the car with the engine idling while Dad went into the hospital to fetch her and the baby. They came running out and Jeannette thought they must have checked out ‘Rex Walls-style’.
In the car, Jeannette’s mother passed her the baby, a girl, and said she was mature enough (aged five) to hold her all the way home. The baby was not named for weeks as Mom said she wanted to study her first. She eventually decided on Lily Ruth Maureen, and called her Maureen for short.
Chapter Twelve recounts how a few months later the police tried to pull them over in the car for a faulty brake light, but Dad took off as they had no insurance or registration, and the license plate was from another car. He made a screeching U-turn on the highway and they ended up hiding in a garage and walking home.
The following day he decided it was too ‘hot’ for them and said how he wanted to go to Battle Mountain as he believed there was gold there. They hired a U-Haul truck and all the children had to stay in the back with the furniture. They were told to be quiet as it was illegal for them to be in there. Jeannette was given Maureen to hold and they had to sit in the dark. At one point, the doors came open and it was only when a car signalled that they stopped. Dad got out and was angry with them, and Jeannette believes she knew he was scared too. He then locked the doors and they carried on as before.
Chapter Thirteen explains how at Battle Mountain they moved into a wooden building on the edge of town. It used to be a railroad depot and because they had little money they improvised to create more furniture. Huge wooden spools were used as tables and small ones were used as chairs. They slept in big cardboard boxes.
Mom bought a piano and it is described with comic effect how Dad used a system of pulleys to get it into the house. Mom was supposed to drive slowly to move the piano into position but she went too quickly and it shot through the house. From then on it stayed outside.
Analysis – Section Two, Chapters Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen
The parents love for adventure and preference for excitement over stability is made increasingly apparent here. The decision to run away is prevalent and it is notable that Maureen leaves the hospital as a baby in this fashion.
It should also be pointed out that these and many other chapters highlight how Jeannette’s parents often left the children in danger and this is seen clearly when they expected the children to stay in the back of the van and the doors then flew open. As Jeannette recounts these stories, she tells us of such perilous events but avoids openly judging her parents. However, simply by telling a story such as this we the readers are invited to question their parenting skills.