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This Boys Life Essay Sample

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This Boy’s life demonstrates the struggle to find a sense of identity in a harsh environment. In Tobias Wolff’s memoir, ‘This boy’s life’ the author presents a life of a boy who struggles with his own identity and a sense of belonging in a harsh environment. The harsh environment is often created by, Jack having to move from one place to another with his mother, the abandonment of his father and lack of a strong, positive male role model, and life in Chinook with Dwight. Throughout the memoir, Tobias is constantly on the move as his mother, Rosemary, seeks to build a better life for them. Rosemary is a single divorced mother, a victim of domestic violence herself and a woman who moves from one bad relationship to another. “My mother didn’t tell me what went on between her and Roy, the threats and occasional brutality with which he held her in place.” (Page 11-12) Tobias finds life on the move very challenging, as he moves from Florida to Utah to Salt Lake City to Seattle to Chinook.

Moving around constantly is not a stable environment, and Tobias cannot find out who he is, and is struggling to find his own identity. By not discovering who he is, when Tobias settles in Utah for a short amount of time, he changes his name to Jack. After a hero in a book series he reads, Jack London. This is also to mark the beginning of his new life, and new found identity he has made up for himself. “I believed that having his name would charge me with some of the strength and competence inherent in my idea of him.” (Page 7) Jacks struggle with identity also comes with the abandonment and betrayal from his father. Jack feels this deeply and Imagines successful looking men who are passing him on the street are his father coming to greet him. “I used to imagine I saw my father coming toward me…I’d wait for him to recognize me…I knew it wasn’t him. He lived back East…”. Dwight uses the abandonment of his father to taunt and ridicule Jack. Dwight often calls Jacks father “high and mighty” and “duke”.

The ultimate betrayal of his father comes when he arrives in California to spend the summer with him, and his father leaves the day after he arrives, to go to Las Vegas.” My father took off for Las Vegas with his girlfriend the day after I arrived in California.” Jacks lack of a strong, positive male role model, leaves Jack in a harsh environment, which makes him struggle to find his identity. Most of Jacks exposure to male role models has been his mother’s aggressive boyfriends and not his father, which gives Jack the wrong impression of what his identity should be like. The harshest environment for Jack is the move to Chinook and the life with Dwight. Chinook is a bleak town and provided many hardships for Jack. “Dwight took his time showing us around…As he drove he listed the advantages of life in Chinook” (Page 56). Jack is lonelier than ever in Chinook and this is intensified by Dwight. Dwight is deceptive and dishonest, making various promises he cannot keep, or simply lying outright. In Dwight’s eyes, Jack can do nothing right.”

Dwight made a study of me. He shared his feelings as they came to him. The trouble with me was…P.79..” Dwight arranges for Jack to work as a newspaper delivery boy and collects all of Jack’s earnings. Dwight claims that he is saving Jack’s money in an account, but Jack later discovers that he has spent it all on himself. Dwight also orders Jack to do household chores. Cruelest of all, Dwight forces Jack to husk several boxes of chestnuts, and Jack spends every night that winter in a utility room bloodying his hands husking the nuts.” My fingers were crazed with cuts and scratches.”

P.80 Jack lives in a harsh environment in Chinook, the harshest he has ever lived in. Jack struggles to find and discover his own identity while in Chinook and under Dwight’s constant taunts and abuse.” We hated each other. We hated each other so much that other feelings didn’t get enough light. It disfigured me.”p196 Throughout ‘This boy’s life’ Jack demonstrates the struggle for him to find his identity in harsh environments. In this memoir Jack is faced with such struggles as, his mother constantly moving from city to city, the abandonment of his father and not having a strong male role model in his life, and also life in Chinook with Dwight. Due to these environments he is placed in, Jack struggles to find his own identity and lives a life of lies and deceit..

Quotes
“My mother didn’t tell me what went on between her and Roy, the threats and occasional brutality with which he held her in place.” (Page 11-12). “I believed that having his name would charge me with some of the strength and competence inherent in my idea of him.” (Page 7)

“I used to imagine I saw my father coming toward me…I’d wait for him to recognize me…I knew it wasn’t him. He lived back East. “high and mighty” and “duke”.

My father took off for Las Vegas with his girlfriend the day after I arrived in California.

“Dwight took his time showing us around…As he drove he listed the advantages of life in Chinook” (Page 56).

Dwight made a study of me. He shared his feelings as they came to him. The trouble with me was…P.79..”

” My fingers were crazed with cuts and scratches.

We hated each other. We hated each other so much that other feelings didn’t get enough light. It disfigured me.”p196

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