Who is Mary Charlene 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 Mary Charlene in The Glass Castle? How did Mary Charlene’s death shape the family’s story?

Mary Charlene in The Glass Castle was the second child of Rex and Rose Mary Walls. Mary Charlene died at nine months old, and her death profoundly affected both parents.

Read more about Mary Charlene in The Glass Castle and the rest of the Walls family.

The Walls Family Origins: Mary Charlene in The Glass Castle

Jeannette didn’t know much about her father’s past. He never liked to talk about his upbringing in Welch, West Virginia or his parents. All she knew was that Rex left home when he was seventeen to join the Air Force. 

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. 

Rose Mary never showed much emotion about Mary Charlene in The Glass Castle. She said it was God’s decision, and he’d had his reasons for taking her back. But Rex was a different story. Rex was the one who’d found her dead in the crib, and whenever her name came up, he’d leave the room. After her death, Rex changed. He started drinking, became moody, and started to get fired from every job he got. 

At one point, Rex sold Rose Mary’s diamond wedding ring for cash without telling her. The stone was big, and Rose Mary’s mother, Grandma Smith, had paid for it. After that, Rose Mary brought the stolen ring up whenever she was angry with Rex. But Rex said he would buy her a bigger ring as soon as they were rich.

Who is Mary Charlene 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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