Who is Brian Walls in The Glass Castle?

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform summary of "The Glass Castle" by Jeannette Walls. Shortform has the world's best summaries of books you should be reading.

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Who is Brian Walls in The Glass Castle? What is his role in the story, and what happens to him in his later life?

Brian Walls in The Glass Castle is Jeannette’s younger brother, and the only boy in the family. Brian follows Lori and Jeannette to New York, and later has a family and becomes a police officer.

Read more about Brian Walls in The Glass Castle.

Brian Walls: The Glass Castle Shows Strong Sibling Bonds

When Rex met Rose Mary, he thought she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. The day he met her, he said they were going to get married. Rose Mary was coy at first, stating that twenty-three men had already tried to marry her, but Rex was persistent. He wore her down until she said yes, and they were married six months later. 

Lori was conceived a few months after the wedding. A year later, their second child, Mary Charlene, was born but died nine months later from sudden infant death syndrome. Two years after Mary Charlene’s death, Jeannette was born. Rose Mary called her the replacement child. Brian came along a year later. He was born in mid-seizure and couldn’t breathe. Rose Mary said he was likely a “goner,” but Brian lived, and the seizures stopped. Jeannette Walls and Brian Walls grew up together and often protected each other.

Collateral Damage

Food became an obsession for Jeannette, Lori, and Brian Walls in The Glass Castle. They were always plotting about how they could find something to eat. Jeannette started stealing small items of food from other kid’s lunches at school. When she played at a friend’s house, she’d slip into the kitchen and rummage for something to eat. She’d inhale the food in the bathroom, then go back out to play. 

Jeannette and Rex had always had a special bond. They were close, and she thought he could do no wrong. Rex told Jeannette she was his favorite because she was the only one who had faith in him. So when Lori and Brian started to criticize their father’s behavior, she defended him and his inventions. Jeannette was angry that her siblings thought Rex was a worthless drunk, but she also noticed that Brian seemed put out by something more than Rex’s drinking. She noticed it first one day when they passed the Green Lantern.

The Green Lantern was a brothel run out of a large green house near the highway. The women hung around the porch in short dresses or swimsuits waving to each car that passed. Jeannette and Brian didn’t know what went on inside, but they liked to spy on the house from bushes. One day, Jeannette dared Brian to go talk to one of the women. She was seven, and he was six. Brian talked to the women for a long time, and when he came back, he said that men go inside, and women are nice to them. After that, Brian always waved to the women on the porch. 

But on this particular day, Brian didn’t wave back when a woman called out to him. Jeannette questioned how the woman knew his name, and Brian told her the story. 

For Brian’s birthday that year, Rex had taken him to the store to pick out a comic book. Afterward, Rex took him to the Nevada Hotel, the other casino in town. They ate dinner with a woman named Ginger, the same woman who waved from the porch. Following dinner, the three went to a suite in the hotel. Rex and Ginger disappeared into the bedroom, and Brian was left in the main room to read his book. 

By the time Rex and Ginger came out, Brian had read and reread the comic at least twice. Ginger sat down and made a fuss over the comic, and Rex made him give it to her. 

Jeannette knew the way Brian was acting wasn’t just about the comic book, but she didn’t know what else could have happened. She still didn’t know what happened at the Green Lantern, and Brian wouldn’t say anymore about it. Though Jeannette Walls and Brian Walls had a close relationship, she was unable to find out what happened.

Finding a New Beginning

Jeannette and Brian Walls in The Glass Castle had been corresponding through letters since she left. Although life was moving forward for her and Lori, things in Welch were getting increasingly worse. 

Rex was always drunk except when he was thrown in jail for a night. Rose Mary was successful at living for herself and was more or less withdrawn from the family. Maureen was practically living at her friends’ homes. And Brian was sleeping underneath an inflatable raft because the roof in their bedroom had collapsed from water damage. 

Jeannette and Lori wondered if Brian would like the city. He was comfortable in the outdoors and never seemed to have a problem with Welch. Also, unlike the girls, Brian had friends. But after Jeannette called and told him about the apartment and the ease of finding work, Brian was convinced. He took the same bus to New York City the day after his junior year of high school. He started working at an ice cream parlor close to The Phoenix offices, and at night, he’d wait for Jeannette to finish her work so they could go home together.

Brian Walls in The Glass Castle: Adult Life

Five years after Rex’s death, the family gathered at Jeannette’s home for Thanksgiving. She was remarried and living in an old farmhouse Upstate. Her relationship with Rose Mary had dwindled over the years, and her mother had never met John, her new husband. 

Jeannette and John picked Lori and Rose Mary up from the train station. Jeannette smiled at the ease with which John related to her family. He was also a writer and published a few books and magazine articles. He was warm and compassionate and had a teenage daughter from a previous marriage. Like Jeannette Walls, Brian Walls had found security in his new life.

Back at the house, Brian waited with his eight-year-old daughter, Veronica. He and his wife had also divorced, and he now lived in a house he renovated in Brooklyn. Brian Walls in The Glass Castle had moved up in the force to sergeant detective running a unit that investigated organized crime. 

Who is Brian Walls in The Glass Castle?

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best summary of Jeannette Walls's "The Glass Castle" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full The Glass Castle summary:

  • The author's unbelievable childhood as her absent parents went on alcoholic binges
  • How Jeannette and her siblings escaped their parents to strike out on their own
  • The complicated relationship Jeannette had with her parents before they died

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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