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Salisbury University
A Maryland University of National Distinction

New Student Reader

2007-2008 New Student Reader

New Student Reader


2007-2008 Book

"The Glass Castle"


About the Author

by Jeannette Walls

"The Glass Castle is a remarkable memoir of resilience and redemption, and a revelatory look into a family at once deeply dysfunctional and uniquely vibrant. When sober, Jeannette's brilliant and charismatic father captured his children's imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and how to embrace life fearlessly. But when he drank, he was dishonest and destructive. Her mother was a free spirit who abhorred the idea of domesticity and didn't want the responsibility of raising a family.

The Walls children learned to take care of themselves. They fed, clothed, and protected one another, and eventually found their way to New York. Their parents followed them, choosing to be homeless even as their children prospered.

The Glass Castle is truly astonishing -- a memoir permeated by the intense love of a peculiar but loyal family."

Discussion Questions

  1. Why does Walls start the book with the incident of the hot dogs? Consider this question when you begin reading, and then go back and consider it again after you have finished the book. What is she left with after this incident? How does this affect the rest of her life?

  2. Pay attention to the various settings of the book: Where do the Walls live? Who decides? How does each new location affect the quality of their lives?

  3. What philosophy seems to guide the family? Does this philosophy change over time? Are you, as a reader, as seduced by the parents’ philosophies as the children are?

  4. Jeannette Walls obviously “turned out OK.” To what extent do you think she owes her current life to her upbringing? Is it possible that her upbringing is exactly what she needed?

  5. Consider the metaphor of a glass castle and what it signifies to Jeannette and her father. Why is it important that, just before leaving for New York, Jeannette tells her father that she doesn’t believe he’ll ever build it? Why do you think she says, “But we sure had fun planning it” at the end of the book? What might this suggest about their relationship?
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