The Glass Castle: Section 3, Chapters 35-38

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Summary – Section Three, Chapters Thirty Five, Thirty Six, Thirty Seven and Thirty Eight

 
Brian and Jeannette decided to make the best of living there and dug a hole in the garden where the foundations would be for the Glass Castle.
 
Because the family had not paid for their garbage to be picked up, Dad said they should throw it into this hole as a temporary measure, but he never got round to disposing of it as he said he would.
 
Around this time, a large river rat appeared in their house and Jeannette thinks it was probably attracted by this rubbish. She called Brian and he threw a cast-iron skillet at it, and the rat hissed back at them. That night, Maureen, who was now aged five, was too terrified to sleep and kept saying the rat was coming for her. Eventually, Jeannette turned on the light and they saw the rat crouching on Maureen’s blanket a few inches from her face. She screamed and pushed her covers off and the rat landed on the floor. Jeannette tried to kill it with a broom handle but it dodged her and Brian cornered it with a baseball bat. Finally, their dog caught it and killed it. When their mother came in, she said she felt sorry for it as rats had to eat too and said it deserved a name; she called it Rufus.
 
After this, Jeannette slept with the baseball bat near her bed and Brian had the machete. Maureen could barely sleep at all and dreamed that rats were eating her. She stayed at the home of friends whenever she could, whereas her parents shrugged the incident off.
 
Chapter Thirty Six begins by describing how poor the area was that they lived in. A few miners lived there, but most people were unemployed and some of the fathers had black lung. Jeannette’s family was the poorest on the street, but her parents refused any form of help or charity and said they could take care of their own. According to Jeannette, other children had it tougher, though, and this included the Pastor children whose mother was called a ‘hoor’.
 
In Chapter Thirty Seven, the town is described as at least one of the most violent they had lived in. A lot of children wanted to fight with them, but they usually fought back as a team. Jeannette describes a victory she and Brian had over Ernie Goad and his friends and this involved catapulting rocks at them.
 
Chapter Thirty Eight refers to their reading habits and Lori is described as the most obsessive. She loved The Lord of the Rings, whereas Jeannette preferred books concerned with people ‘dealing with hardships’ and this included Lord of the Flies and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. With the latter work, she identified with the central character, Francie Nolan, and felt she resembled her in the way she saw good in her father.
 
The narrative cuts to one night that summer when her father came home with his head and face matted in blood. She bathed his head and he asked her to sew up the gash on his arm. He said he was so pickled he said he would not feel it.
 
Analysis – Section Three, Chapters Thirty Five, Thirty Six, Thirty Seven and Thirty Eight
The grinding poverty of Welch and of the Walls family in particular is insisted upon in these chapters. Entwined with this poverty is the high level of violence that Jeannette observed and the hazardous living conditions, which included a large river rat entering the home.
 
It is of note that between these tales of poverty and fear Jeannette explains her and Lori’s favorite reading matter of the time, and she tells how she preferred books about people ‘dealing with hardships’ rather than fantasy. Parallels may be drawn between this work and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, as Jeannette invites us to do. We are also reminded that this work continues in the tradition that she preferred at this time.
 

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