Jeannette Walls is the author and the voice of The Glass Castle. The memoir is told from her point of view, beginning with her unconventional childhood (starting at the age of three) and culminating in her adult success as an editor, journalist, and writer. She is the second oldest out of four children.
Rex Walls was born in Welch, WV, and later joined the Air Force to get out of Welch. During his time in the Air Force, he met his wife Rose Mary. After the death of their second daughter, Mary, as an infant, Rex descended into alcoholism.
Rex is bright and creative when not drinking; the title of the book comes from a promise that he makes throughout Jeannette's childhood that he will someday build the family a Glass Castle that they will live in, the blueprints for which he carries with him every time they move. Rex loves his family but is responsible for a great deal of chaos in their lives, uprooting them at a moment's notice to move to a new town, spending their already inadequate money on alcohol, and disappearing for days at a time. Although he is trained as a skilled worker, he rarely holds a job for longer than six months and often gets into trouble by arguing with authority figures.
Rex always has projects in mind for getting rich quick, but these never lead anywhere. He occasionally brings in extra money by gambling; at one point he enlists Jeannette in hustling a pool player at a bar by letting the player believe she will provide sexual favors to him. He justifies this by saying he knew Jeannette could take care of herself.
Although Rex's contributions to his family have always been erratic, towards the end of the memoir, Rex comes up with $950 for Jeannette's final year at in College.
Rose Mary Walls
Rose Mary is Rex's wife and the mother of Jeannette, Lori, Brian, and Maureen. She is an artist who loves to paint, but is also licensed as a teacher and is occasionally forced to take a teaching job when the family is on the brink of starvation with literally no money left. Even so, she sees taking teaching jobs as a betrayal of her true calling and never takes these jobs seriously, often refusing to go to work in the morning until her children cajole her into going. She occasionally tells her children that life would be much simpler if she didn't have four children to take care of.
By the end of the memoir, Rose Mary chooses to be homeless, seeing it as an adventure and refusing to take help from either of her grown daughters. Jeannette learns later that Rose Mary owns family land in Texas that is worth at least a million dollars, but never used this as a resource when her family was struggling because she was a strong believer that family land should never be sold. She also inherited land from her mother who died and left her a large house. The Walls end up destroying that home and blowing through all the money and having to uproot and move once again.
Lori Walls is the first child born to Rex and Rose Mary Walls. She is the first of the siblings to really question the way the family has been living, and decides she needs to leave home as soon as she can manage it.
Lori and Jeannette work together to save money so that Lori can move to New York after her high school graduation, where she could get a job and send for Jeannette. Over a period of months, they save a sum of money in a piggy bank, but Rex steals it. Jeannette then receives a job offer from a family who is moving to Iowa and want her to come along to watch their children over the summer. Jeannette asks them to take Lori instead and pay for a bus ticket to New York at the end of it.
Lori moves to New York City, and Jeannette joins her immediately after her junior year. In New York, Lori eventually becomes an illustrator.
Brian Walls is the only son in the Walls family, the third of four children. He and Jeannette are the closest out of all the siblings. He helps Jeannette defend the siblings from local bullies.
Immediately after his junior year of high school, Brian follows Jeannette and Lori to New York as well. He marries, starts a family, and becomes a cop, eventually rising to become a detective sergeant. Later he divorces his wife.
Maureen is the youngest of the Walls children. As a young girl, Maureen spends most of her time in the homes of her friends, eating meals with them (since there is no food in the Walls home), and sleeping over at other people's houses whenever possible.
Lori, Jeannette, and Brian bring Maureen to New York at the age of twelve. Shortly thereafter, their parents move to New York as well. Maureen eventually goes to live with her parents again, but attacks her mother with a knife when her mother tries to kick her out. Nevertheless, Maureen stays there until she is sent to a mental hospital for a year. After her release, she buys a one-way bus ticket to California. Jeannette states that she believes all Maureen ever wanted was for someone to take care of her.