The Glass Castle: Top Ten Quotes

‘Mom, however, told us that the FBI wasn’t really after Dad; he just liked to say they were because it was more fun having the FBI on your tail than bill collectors.’
p. 21 Jeannette, the narrator, explains how her father used to tell stories about his life to both entertain and impress his children. In this instance, he also told stories to make himself more exciting and, therefore, less mundane than he actually was.

‘When Dad wasn’t telling us about all the amazing things he had already done, he was telling us about the wondrous things he was going to do. Like build the Glass Castle.’p. 28 This reference gives context to the title as Jeannette goes on to explain that the Glass Castle was one of her father’s dreams, but had also been thought of in great detail to the point that he carried the architectural blueprints around with him.

‘That was the thing to remember about all monsters, Dad said: They love to frighten people, but the minute you stare them down, they turn tail and run.’p. 43 Prior to this quotation, Jeannette’s father had taken her Demon hunting to help chase away the Demons she had imagined.

‘“It’s the Joshua tree’s struggle that gives it its beauty.”’p. 45 This quotation is attributed to Jeannette’s mother, and is in keeping with how struggling was a mainstay of her family’s life.

‘Then he pointed to the top of the fire, where the snapping yellow flames dissolved into an invisible shimmery heat that made the desert beyond seem to waver, like a mirage. Dad told us that zone was known in physics as the boundary between turbulence and order. “It’s a place where no rules apply, or at least they haven’t figured ‘em out yet,” he said.’ p. 73 This boundary between ‘turbulence and order’ epitomizes the life the parents attempt to live.

‘Mom liked to encourage self-sufficiency in all living creatures.’ p. 77 At this point, Jeannette has ostensibly been discussing how they could not afford pet food and so the animals they had ate their few scraps. It is also evident that Jeannette is including herself and her siblings in this reference to ‘all living creatures’.

‘Mom gave me a startled look. I’d broken one of our unspoken rules: We were always supposed to pretend our life was one long and incredibly fun adventure.’ p. 84 Her mother’s ‘startled look’ came after Jeannette and Lori ate the last bit of food (of sugar and margarine) and Jeannette said how they were hungry after their mother accused them of being selfish.

‘President John F. Kennedy had come to Welch not long after he was elected and personally handed out the nation’s first food stamps here on McDowell Street, to prove his point that – though ordinary Americans might find it hard to believe – starvation-level poverty existed right in their own country.’ p. 161-62 This work reiterates the point Kennedy is cited as making in that the poverty of an American family is exposed here. This reference emphasizes, then, how hunger and ‘starvation-level poverty’ are present in the richest society in the world.

‘No one had planned this arrangement, and no rules enforced it. That was just the way it was.’ p. 230 Jeannette is referring to the racially segregated swimming pool, and how African-American and white people rarely mixed.

‘A wind picked up, rattling the windows, and the candle flames suddenly shifted, dancing along the border between turbulence and order.’ p. 341 This final sentence echoes the words of the children’s father and his preference for the place between turbulence and order (where there are no rules). It is also implies that his ghostly presence has been noted.