The Glass Castle

The Glass Castle

what happened to jeanette when she was 3 years old and how did it make her feel about hospitals

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At her home in Southern Arizona, three-year old Jeannette Walls’ pink dress catches fire while she is cooking hot dogs in her family’s trailer. The account is described as the author’s first memory. Upon hearing her child’s screams, Jeannette’s mother rushes in from the other room and puts out the flames with a wool blanket. She then grabs Jeannette and her younger son, Brian, and goes to the neighboring trailer to ask for a ride to the hospital. Jeannette’s injuries are serious but the doctors are able to treat the burns by giving her a series of skin grafts, replacing the burned skin on her upper body with skin from her upper thigh. However, the nature of the accident prompts the doctors to ask Jeannette a series of questions about her life at home, particularly how it is that she was allowed to use the stove at such a young age. A young Jeannette answers matter-of-factly, asserting that her mother allowed her to cook often because she was ‘mature for [her] age’.

Jeannette enjoys the solitude and order of the hospital, qualities which do not characterize her home life. And she is excited to finally have a room to herself, instead of having to share one with her brother and sister. In the hospital Jeannette is first introduced to chewing gum by one of the nurses. Yet, Mr. and Mrs. Walls are not so pleased and they do not hide their disdain for the hospital and its staff. Mrs. Walls is upset that the nurse gave her daughter chewing gum without asking permission and Mr. Walls is unimpressed by the “ ‘med-school quacks’” that run the hospital.