The Glass Castle: Section 2, Chapters 5-7

Summary – Section Two, Chapter Five, Six and Seven
Jeannette explains how the family were always ‘doing the skedaddle’ and this was usually in the middle of the night. Her father sometimes alluded to how FBI agents were after him, but her mother told her he just liked to say this because it sounded more fun than admitting to being chased by bill collectors.
They moved around ‘like nomads’ in dusty little mining towns in Nevada, Arizona and California. They moved when the bills mounted or if her parents were bored or if her father was fired. Occasionally they stayed with Grandma Smith, the children’s maternal grandmother, but they would move again after a few weeks as she and their father were not compatible.
When they moved, the children were sometimes enrolled at a school and sometimes not as their parents taught them. All three of them were able to read by the age of five, having being taught by their mother, and their father taught them mathematics. He also showed them other things such as how to shoot a gun, use a bow and arrow and throw a knife as well as understand Morse Code.
The narrative shifts to explain how their mother loved the desert as she grew up there. Dust storms and the rains are also described, and Jeannette compares her family to the cactus: ‘We ate irregularly, and when we did, we’d gorge ourselves.’
Her father told them that this moving around was only temporary as he was set on finding gold. Jeannette outlines how he was ‘an expert in math physics and electricity’ and was always inventing things, and this included the Prospector which was designed to sift earth and distinguish rock from gold.
In her mind she sees him as perfect, but knows he had what her mother called ‘a little bit of a drinking situation’. Nevertheless, this tended to happen when they had money and at this time they had little to spare and his alcoholism was not so acute.
She remembers he used to tell them bedtime stories, which were always about him and he was always a central heroic figure. When he was not telling them stories, he was telling them about ‘the wondrous things he was going to do’, such as build the Glass Castle.
He drew up architectural blueprints for this Castle and it included solar panels to convert the sun’s rays to electricity. To bring this about he said they just needed to find gold; when this happened he would start work on it.
In Chapter Six, it is explained how Jeannette knew barely anything about her father’s past, except that he was from Welch in West Virginia and his father used to work as a clerk on the railroad. One of his favorite stories was the account of how he met the children’s mother when he was in the airforce and she was on leave from the USO to meet her parents. He and his friends had been plucking up the courage to dive 40 feet into a lake and she and a friend drove up and, looking like a film star, she dived in. He followed her and told her they were going to marry and they did six months later.
Jeannette saw this as romantic, but her mother did not. She said she had to say yes as he would not take no for an answer and wanted to get away from her mother as she would not let her make the smallest of decisions. She added, ‘“I had no idea your father would be even worse.”’
Jeannette’s father left the military after the marriage as he wanted to make his fortune. In a few months, her mother was pregnant with Lori. A year after this they had a second daughter, Mary Charlene, but she died aged nine months of crib (cot) death. Jeannette was born two years later and her mother told her she was to replace Mary Charlene. Brian was born when Jeannette was aged one.
On hindsight, Jeannette considers how her mother never seemed to be upset over the death of Mary Charlene, and saw it as God’s will. Her father, however, would not talk about her. Her mother said he was never the same after finding her dead and started drinking and losing jobs after this.
The chapter ends with an explanation of how her father pawned her mother’s diamond wedding ring (which Grandma Smith bought) when they were short of money after Brian was born. This was a source of arguments and Jeannette remembers that they had to find gold in order to buy her another one and to be able to build the Glass Castle.
Chapter Seven begins with the children sat in the car outside the Bar None Bar in the Nevada Desert waiting for their parents. Lori, aged seven, asked Jeannette (aged four) if she likes moving around. She said ‘sure’ and together they worked out that they had lived in at least 11 different places. At this time, they were on the way to Las Vegas as their father wanted to accumulate enough in the casino to finance the Prospector.
Analysis – Section Two, Chapter Five, Six and Seven
These chapters give some background to the family. Her father’s alcoholism is referred to, but also his dreams and aspirations are too. These dreams come in the hope of finding gold and in one day building the eponymous Glass Castle. Her father is typified here by his almost childlike dreams and by his desire to keep moving rather than pay bills or settle down.
It should also be remembered that despite the lack of conformity of the parents, all three of the children have been taught to read and are already schooled by their father in mathematics. By placing such a premium on education and learning, the children are inculcated with a desire to learn more.