The Glass Castle

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Grandma Smith Character Analysis

Mom’s mother who lived in Phoenix until her death. The reader sees Grandma Smith only through Jeannette’s flashbacks; when the family actually moves to Phoenix as part of the linear narrative, it’s because Grandma Smith has just died. But Grandma Smith, a flapper-turned-schoolteacher who nagged Mom but spoiled Jeannette by combing her hair and letting her try on perfumes, makes it easier to understand both Mom’s and Jeannette’s characters. Mom rebelled against her mother, but Jeannette—in rebelling against Mom—embraces many of Grandma Smith’s traits and values.
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Grandma Smith Character Timeline in The Glass Castle

The timeline below shows where the character Grandma Smith appears in The Glass Castle. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 2: The Desert
Home Theme Icon
Order and Turbulence Theme Icon
Once in awhile, the family stays with Mom’s mom, Grandma Smith , in her large house in Phoenix. Although Jeannette adores Grandma Smith, the stay never... (full context)
Growing Up, Illusion, and Disillusion Theme Icon
Order and Turbulence Theme Icon
Responsibility, Self-Sufficiency, and Non-Conformity Theme Icon
...with Dad, accusing him of spending all his time at the Owl Club. Dad suggests Grandma Smith loan them money to leach gold out of rock with cyanide. Mom says they should... (full context)
Growing Up, Illusion, and Disillusion Theme Icon
Possessions and Ownership Theme Icon
Order and Turbulence Theme Icon
On the way to Phoenix, Jeannette reminisces about her trips to Grandma Smith’s white house in Phoenix, where she assumes they’re heading. It has green shutters, Persian carpets,... (full context)
Order and Turbulence Theme Icon
Responsibility, Self-Sufficiency, and Non-Conformity Theme Icon
Grandma Smith , though once a flapper, became a teacher after she had children and taught in... (full context)
Order and Turbulence Theme Icon
Responsibility, Self-Sufficiency, and Non-Conformity Theme Icon
Jeannette, on the other hand, is Grandma Smith’s favorite grandchild, and loves all the rules, such as having to wash and comb her... (full context)
Growing Up, Illusion, and Disillusion Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
Order and Turbulence Theme Icon
Responsibility, Self-Sufficiency, and Non-Conformity Theme Icon
On the way to Phoenix, Jeannette asks if the family is going to stay with Grandma Smith . Mom says no—that Grandma Smith has died. Though “officially” from leukemia, Mom claims it... (full context)
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Possessions and Ownership Theme Icon
Responsibility, Self-Sufficiency, and Non-Conformity Theme Icon
Mom is surprised when Jeannette gets upset. They’re going to Phoenix to live in Grandma Smith’s house, she says. Mom will start an art studio and use her inheritance to buy... (full context)
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Possessions and Ownership Theme Icon
Order and Turbulence Theme Icon
...telephone at home—also the first one they’ve owned—using the electric washing machine, and playing with Grandma Smith’s old record player. Mom and Dad dance to old albums, from gospel music to opera. (full context)
Possessions and Ownership Theme Icon
Responsibility, Self-Sufficiency, and Non-Conformity Theme Icon
...refuses to accept the idea. Mom, though, says she’s inherited some land in Texas from Grandma Smith , and has just received a check from the company leasing the drilling rights. With... (full context)