The Glass Castle

Fire Symbol Icon
Fire is present in The Glass Castle from one of the very first scenes, when Jeannette accidentally lights herself on fire while making hot dogs as a three-year-old. Fire is both a source of heat and light and a force for destruction. From the family’s San Francisco apartment to Uncle Stanley’s house in Welch, the shells of burned-down homes strew the pages of the memoir. But Jeannette is fascinated by fire, perhaps precisely because of its power to do both good and harm. When she’s younger, that fascination edges towards a worrying pyromania. By the time she’s older, though, Jeannette can appreciate the complexity of fire on a more intellectual level. As Dad tells her, the place at which fire melts into air is the unknown border between order and turbulence. Fire, then, stands for the ambivalence of this unknown factor, as Jeannette can never fully know whether her tumultuous childhood and dysfunctional family has done more good than harm.

Fire Quotes in The Glass Castle

The The Glass Castle quotes below all refer to the symbol of Fire. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Growing Up, Illusion, and Disillusion Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Scribner edition of The Glass Castle published in 2006.
Part 2 Quotes

I wondered if the fire had been out to get me. I wondered if all fire was related, like Dad said all humans were related, if the fire that burned me that day while I cooked hot dogs was somehow connected to the fire I had flushed down the toilet and the fire burning at the hotel. I didn’t have the answers to those questions, but what I did know was that I lived in a world that at any moment could erupt into fire. It was the sort of knowledge that kept you on your toes.

Related Characters: Jeannette Walls (speaker)
Related Symbols: Fire
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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[Dad] pointed to the top of the fire, where the snapping yellow flames dissolved into an invisible shimmery heat that made the desert beyond seem to waver, like a mirage. Dad told us that zone was known in physics as the boundary between turbulence and order. “It’s a place where no rules apply, or at least they haven’t figured ’em out yet,” he said.

Related Characters: Rex Walls (speaker), Jeannette Walls, Brian Walls
Related Symbols: Fire
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Part 5 Quotes

A wind picked up, rattling the windows, and the candle flames suddenly shifted, dancing along the border between turbulence and order.

Related Characters: Jeannette Walls (speaker), Rex Walls
Related Symbols: Fire
Page Number: 288
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat

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Fire Symbol Timeline in The Glass Castle

The timeline below shows where the symbol Fire 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
Possessions and Ownership Theme Icon
Order and Turbulence Theme Icon
Jeannette recalls her earliest memory, at the age of three, as being on fire. Living in a trailer somewhere in southern Arizona (she can’t recall which town), she is... (full context)
Possessions and Ownership Theme Icon
Order and Turbulence Theme Icon
Following the accident, Jeannette becomes fascinated with fire, passing her finger through a candle flame, watching her neighbors burn trash, and stealing matches... (full context)
Growing Up, Illusion, and Disillusion Theme Icon
Order and Turbulence Theme Icon
Responsibility, Self-Sufficiency, and Non-Conformity Theme Icon
...days later, Jeannette wakes up in the middle of the night to the sound of fire. Dad rushes into the children’s bedroom and carries them outside before helping to fight the... (full context)
Growing Up, Illusion, and Disillusion Theme Icon
Order and Turbulence Theme Icon
Responsibility, Self-Sufficiency, and Non-Conformity Theme Icon
...abandoned shed. One day they drop matches into these instruments and the shed catches on fire. Jeannette escapes and finds Dad, who pulls out Brian. (full context)
Growing Up, Illusion, and Disillusion Theme Icon
Order and Turbulence Theme Icon
Afterward, Dad seems not mad but contemplative. He points to the fire and shows Brian and Jeannette the point at which the flames melt into a shimmery... (full context)
Part 4: New York City
Home Theme Icon
Order and Turbulence Theme Icon
Responsibility, Self-Sufficiency, and Non-Conformity Theme Icon
...of the flophouse, after Dad falls asleep with a cigarette and sets the room on fire. (full context)
Part 5: Thanksgiving
Growing Up, Illusion, and Disillusion Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
Possessions and Ownership Theme Icon
Order and Turbulence Theme Icon
It grows windy outside, and Jeannette notices that the flames from the candle move somewhat, the border between order and turbulence shifting again. (full context)