Summary and Analysis
Part 4: New York City Section 1
Jeannette arrives in New York City, mesmerized by its size and scope. After only a day, she gets a job in a hamburger shop and, soon, she and Lori move out of the women's hostel and into their own apartment in the South Bronx. In the fall, Jeannette begins her senior year at a public high school that offers internships instead of classes. She interns at a small paper, The Phoenix, and eventually gets a full-time job there. She loves the long hours and busy schedule.
Jeannette and Lori periodically receive calls from home, and they learn that life in Welch is only getting worse: Dad is in jail when he is not drunk, and Mom has taken a bad fall off of the rotting porch. Jeannette suggests to Brian that he join them in the city, and he eagerly moves there the day after he finishes eleventh grade. Jeannette starts college at Barnard and becomes a live-in nanny to save on rent. Eventually, Brian gets his own place and Lori decides it is best for Maureen to move in with her. On weekends, the reunited Walls kids get together for dinner.
In this section, Walls establishes a new setting for the Walls family and contrasts the stability in New York City with the increasing instability of Welch. One of the key contrasts is the financial opportunities in New York versus those in Welch; all three of the older Walls children find jobs immediately upon arriving in the city. Furthermore, all three children seek out employment and keep their jobs. This spirit of responsibility and independence is absent from their parents' lives in Welch, which drift into deeper turmoil as Dad's drunkenness and Mom's disassociation from everything create new challenges.
Along with financial stability comes emotional stability for Lori, Jeannette, and Brian. All three feel secure, and that allows them to take on the responsibility of raising their youngest sibling, Maureen. Finally, by ending with a scene of the four of them gathered together for a family meal, Walls shows how the four siblings achieve what their parents never could: a sense of order and plenty. The children are finally no longer hungry and able to relax and enjoy each other's company.