The Glass Castle: Section 3, Chapters 32-34

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Summary – Section Three, Chapters Thirty Two, Thirty Three and Thirty Four

The bullying continued for weeks and Jeannette did not tell her parents about it. Dinitia Hewitt was the tall girl who was the leader of these bullies. Jeannette was called ‘poor, ugly and dirty’ and she thought it was hard to argue against this.
 
She thought of telling Dad about the fighting, but did not want to sound like a ‘whiner’ and he had rarely been sober since they came to Welch. She thought if she told him he might turn up at school drunk and make things worse.
 
She tried to tell her mother in a round about way, and said how three ‘black’ girls were giving her ‘a hard time’. Her mother said she should tell them how Martin Luther King, Junior would be ashamed of their behavior. Jeannette knew such an argument would not work, but tried it anyway. The girls shrieked with laughter as they pushed her to the ground.
 
The narrative shifts to a month after she started school and to when she saw a large mongrel dog cornering a little African-American boy. She threatened the dog with a stick and carried the boy home by piggy back. When she dropped him off, she saw Dinitia on the porch across the street and she looked at Jeannette with curiosity.
 
The next day the gang moved towards her, but Dinitia hung back and without their leader they lost their sense of purpose. The following week Dinitia asked Jeannette for help on her English assignment. She never apologized for bullying her, or even referred to it, but she did thank her for bringing her neighbor home.
 
Knowing how racist Erma was, Jeannette went to Dinitia’s house and did not invite her home. Erma found out about these visits (to what she called ‘Niggerville’) and also blamed African-Americans for the downfall of Welch. The children had been taught to never use the word ‘nigger’ and Jeannette told Erma she was not supposed to use this word. Erma called her ungrateful and said she would have none of her food that night. Jeannette’s mother told her later that she might not agree with Erma but had to be polite. Jeannette saw this as hypocritical and thought it was based on the fear that she might throw them out.
 
In Chapter Thirty Three, Jeannette’s mother and father decided to return to Phoenix and said they would retrieve everything they had left behind. The children were to remain in Welch.
 
After they left, Erma became even more cantankerous. About a week later, she also sexually abused Brian and Jeannette caught her and called her a pervert. Erma went to slap her but Lori stopped her and said they should all calm down. Erma then slapped her and knocked her glasses off, and Lori slapped her back. They traded blows again and flew at each other. Brian and Jeannette cheered Lori on and this woke up Uncle Stanley who separated them.
 
From that point, they were relegated to the basement. This had its own door that led outside and they were not even allowed to use the bathroom.  Uncle Stanley sometimes sneaked beans down to them, but was afraid to stay as Erma might have turned her anger on him.
 
A storm hit the town a week later and a foot of snow fell. Erma would not let them use any coal as she said they did not know how to use the stove. As soon as they returned from school, they got into bed and did their homework there.
 
They were in bed when their parents came back from Phoenix and Erma talked to them first about her grievances. Their father came down and was furious with them and Jeannette told him they were just protecting themselves. He said, ‘“Brian’s a man, he can take it”’ and shook his head wildly as though he could ‘keep out the sound of my voice’. When he went back upstairs, she asked Lori if she thought the same thing that happened to Brian could have happened to Dad. Lori said to try not to think about things like that or it would make her ‘crazy’.
 
Chapter Thirty Four begins with Jeannette’s parents explaining that their house in Phoenix had been ransacked by looters. They packed what was left into the car and trailer, but the car seized up in Nashville. They then caught the bus to Welch.
 
They were all still banished to the basement and so they found somewhere else to live. The house they found had no indoor plumbing and Dad confessed he could not afford to turn the electricity on. It cost ‘only’ $1,000 and they did not have to make a down payment, but had to pay $50 a month. He also said they would not be living there for too long and they were buying this because of the land that came with it. He said they could build their new house, the Glass Castle, there.
 
They moved in that afternoon and he made them bunk beds. He also brought home a four-drawer dresser and the children also had a wooden box each for their personal stuff. Jeannette placed her geode in this. They called the kitchen the ‘loose juice room’ because on the rare occasions the electricity was on they received shocks from the damp or metal surfaces. They learned to wrap their hands in dry sock or rags to protect themselves when in there. The ceiling also came down after a rainstorm, and the children tried to fix it to no avail.
 
Analysis – Section Three, Chapters Thirty Two, Thirty Three and Thirty Four
The monstrousness of Erma is brought to light when Jeannette relates the incident of when she abused Brian. This also helps to explain further why Jeannette’s father abuses alcohol and possibly why he has been drinking more since he returned to Welch as it is implied that his mother might also have abused him when he was a child.
 
 

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