What are some examples of irony in The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls?

Expert Answers
tresvivace eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Probably the strongest example of irony is one we learn as the book ends.  Jeannette's mother Rosemary had considerable wealth that could have fed and clothed her children and provided a home for them, but she felt she needed to hold on to this property.  This irony is foreshadowed by the children's discovery of a diamond ring.  When they learn that it is a real diamond, they want to sell it, but Rosemary says that she "should have nice things." 

The title The Glass Castle highlights the irony of the castle Jeannette's father Rex promises the children.  Although he is knowledgeable scientifically, it becomes clear to us that the glass castle will never truly exist.  It is ironic that he describes it as glass because glass is fragile and unsustainable, like the Walls family itself.  It is also ironic in that it suggests a fairy tale existence in contrast to the squalor in which the family actually lives. 

We can see irony in the loyalty and love the children have toward their parents despite what many of us would consider neglect and even abuse.  It is this mix of love and dysfunction that makes this a conflicted and powerful book.  

There is even irony in author Jeannette Walls' fear of what people would think of her after she published the book. In an interview she claims that she was fearful of people's reactions.  This is ironic in light of the resiliency she shows in the book itself, but it also reflects the mix of vulnerability and resiliency (possibly an ironic mix) that drives the narrative of this book.

jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the ironies of Jeannette Walls's story is that she winds up living on Park Avenue, while her mother is rooting through a Dumpster in Manhattan. While Jeannette is surrounded by Persian rugs and wears pearls, her parents are rooting through garbage looking for goods. The irony is that her life has turned out very differently than that of her parents, and the contrast between her life and theirs is striking.

Another irony is that her parents seem to be happy with their life of poverty. They live without excuses or explanations, and they are content with what they have and the life they have chosen. However, Jeannette, while living what many would consider a life of relative ease on Park Avenue, is beset with worries--about her parents on one hand and about what other people think of her on the other.

The book is filled with ironies about Jeannette's childhood. For example, when she burns herself because her parents basically neglect to watch her as a young child, she is taken to the hospital, where she receives attentive care. Her father asks if the hospital staff is taking good care of her, which is incredibly ironic, because it was her parents' neglect that landed her in the hospital in the first place. 

Read the study guide:
The Glass Castle

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question