Characters make up the backbone of a story. They convey the author’s ideas and beliefs about, and relationships with, the world as well as the human beings around them. Some of the major characters of The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls are discussed below.
Characters in The Glass Castle
Jeannette Walls is the narrator of the story and the protagonist of The Glass Castle. The book is actually Jeannette’s memoir, and she narrates her story from her childhood to adulthood when she is able to have her own home. Wild-hearted, adventurous, and pet of her father, she is the second of four siblings and is closer to her brother than to her sister, Lori. Despite her preference for going outdoors with her brother Brian over reading like Lori, Jeannette becomes an excellent writer who has the power to create ripples among English writers. With maturity comes the realization that her alcoholic father is the main reason the family is crude and uncivilized.
She resents her mother, too, considering her carelessness in the upbringing of her kids when she could have put her skills to use working to provide for her family. However, on the other hand, this resentment toward her father and mother leads her to become independent and creative. That is why she comes to New York and becomes a reporter, allowing her to have a comfortable lifestyle of her own choice.
Rex Walls is another major character of this book who leaves a lasting impression on the readers on account of his pretensions that he is providing the best education to his children by making them roam around the world. Logically, he is an impressively intelligent person, who has the knack to adopt any profession and show skills such as engineering and architecture to the point that his kids expect him to invent things to bring wealth to the family. As an independent thinker, he is not only afraid of the government but also of the other family systems living around them; his paranoia leads him to turn to alcohol and his addiction prevents him from realizing his dreams. Despite having a sense of self-control, Rex often loses and gives way to impulsivity at times rather than ensuring the safety and well-being of his family.
Rose Mary Walls
Rose Mary Walls is Jeannette’s mother and Rex’s wife. Her importance lies in that she fully cooperates with her husband in his stupidities of running away from the government and organized and ordered lifestyle despite having creativity and knack of learning fast. She, too, values the lessons that Rex teaches about self-sufficiency with dreaming. However, her belief in the power of an individual to change his fate is very strong and stable. That is why she stays an artist, following her heart despite seeing her children living in penury and ignorance. Her bohemian dream has created a sort of resentment in her, making her view life from her own self-created prism. She stays with her homeless husband despite seeing her daughters making successful careers in New York.
Lori is the eldest child of the Walls family. Although she does not take part in outdoor adventures with Jeannette and her brother, Brian, she possesses great courage in the face of challenges. When Billy Deel intrudes into their home with a BB gun to exact revenge on Jeannette for showing hatred toward him, she takes out her father’s pistol to defend her siblings. Though she takes after her mother in intelligence and lifestyle, she stands apart from Mary Rose in that she understands the value of education. That is why she decides to be an artist but not a bohemian one as her mother wishes. Instead, she goes to New York to pursue her dream by working to support her education.
Falling at number three among his siblings, Brian Walls is the male member who is significant on account of his masculine role with his sisters. Closer to Jeannette than to Lori, he plays with her and takes part in outdoor activities and adventures. He also helps his sisters defend themselves and find food. A loyal and loving child, he used to play hide and seek during childhood with Jeannette. He even works to earn money to help his sisters to escape this life and settle in New York to get an education.
Maureen Walls is the youngest among the Walls, who misses the enjoyment of adventures and does not develop much. She, however, enjoys life when things are smooth, though she suffers from depression and eventually is moved to a psychiatry center in California. It seems that her mental abilities give way to the rigors of the gypsy lifestyle of the Walls.
Miss Jeanette Bivens
Miss Jeanette is a minor character but very significant, for she comes into contact with the main narrator, Jeannette Walls. She is a teacher at Welch High School and has taught all the Walls, including Rex. Miss Bivens also believes in her student, Rex Walls, and his daydreaming. Jeannette edits the school newspaper that Miss Biven supervises as its advisor. A constant source of hope and support, Jeanette Bivens makes a deep impact on Jeannette Walls, the narrator.
The character of Grandma Smith is significant in that she brings the necessary stability in the lives of the Walls. She is the mother of Rose Mary and lives in Phoenix until her death. However, it is interesting that after Rose Mary rebels against her mother, she later confronts a similar rebellion from her daughter Jeannette. In a way, the narrator accepts various character traits of Grandma by rebelling against her daughter and her mother.
Erma Walls is Rex’s mother and lives in with various relatives in Welch because of her homelessness. She is a cold and bitter person, and Jeannette catches her abusing Brian, demonstrating a continuation of abuse through the Walls family.
A minor character, Uncle Stanley also lives in Welch. He is Rex’s brother yet he tries to sexually abuse and harass Jeannette. Jeannette senses his abusive nature and avoids him in future confrontations.