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Author Topic: Text response- This Boy's Life, feedback please  (Read 3261 times)  Share 

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Text response- This Boy's Life, feedback please
« on: April 06, 2015, 06:01:31 pm »
This is my first text response for TBL, so any feedback/improvements are appreciated.  :)

All the men in Jack's life fail him. Discuss.

Tobias Wolff's memoir, This Boy's Life, traces Jack's difficult journey across post-war America, which has been one of constant trouble and change. While Rosemary's unconditional love provides Jack with the constancy and support he needs, there is still a significant void in his otherwise turbulent life - the other half of the parental pair who would give the respect and adequacy that he deeply desires. This can often be attributed to the lack of proper father figures, and there have been several truly selfish and unsparing ones in his life that reinforce this pessimistic belief. However, Jack has also encountered some caring and appreciative males, demonstrating that not all the men in his life have entirely failed to support and guide him.

Not one male in Jack's life has been so degrading and belittling than Dwight. Initially he feigns an aura of deference to win over Rosemary, but as soon as Jack realises Dwight's deception, he is already exposed to a "whole nother ball game". His Chinook life suddenly becomes one of cruelty and forced subservience; husking "boxes of chestnuts" every night and constantly being the subject of merciless berating and physical violence. As a result, Jack finds himself plunged further down the abyss that is his self-esteem, deteriorating his sense of belonging and purpose in the world, a notion only strengthened by Jack's depiction of Dwight as a "man who was offended by my existence and would never stop questioning my right to it". Although Dwight seems to be the supreme authorial figure, his sense of worthlessness is still undeniable. From his frequent bouts of drunkenness and his incompetence with guns to his attempts at "improving" Jack to become more "masculine"; they all highlight Dwight's extreme vulnerability and frustration. With all of his worthlessness imposed on a hapless and impressionable Jack, his psychological problems are only exacerbated and he is left helpless, with only his imagination and his mother to hold onto. Likewise, the severity of Dwight's physical, mental and emotional abuse on Jack is so enduring, that after he leaves Chinook, he could still see "Dwight's face and hear his voice", an image of brutality and failure forever scarred into his memory.

In addition, Jack's previous father figures, Roy and his biological father, Arthur, have also been a source of negativity and have reinforced Jack's sense of inadequacy. Roy is seen as a disabled veteran, a "wounded soldier", who is emotionally dysfunctional, and thus in many dinners they "didn't talk". It is because of this mutual apathy and absence of homeliness that Jack finds himself with an overriding sense of isolation, and thus eager to be embraced in a true family, which is evident in that he would "sit in other people's yards" and "play with their dogs". Jack's yearn for fatherly love is highlighted when he states that  "I would prepare myself to recognise my father...recognised by him", coming across a man in a suit. By utilising his imagination, Jack is able to escape the grim circumstances of his childhood, one filled with incapable surrogate fathers such as Roy. Moreover, Arthur Wolff's abandonment of both Rosemary and Jack only exemplifies the lack of supportive male figures throughout his life. A compulsive liar and a selfish man, he "sends nothing" to both after the divorce and when Jack does finally meet him, Arthur is committed to mental asylum, fortifying the image of a distant and uncaring father. Due to this previous string of  failed father-son relationships, Jack continues to struggle finding his identity and way in life.

Nevertheless, where Jack encounters hardship and troublesome situations, there are occasionally some trustworthy figures that lend him a hand, one of them being Mr Howard. Mr Howard is portrayed as an inspiring figure, someone who Jack wanted to emulate and become in the future, which is evident as he admires Mr Howard's blue Thunderbird, a car Jack considers more "coveted than a Corvette". When he gives Jack an opportunity to enter the elite Hill school, he feels as though Mr Howard has "taken with him some hope of change" he had "made him feel". In conjunction with this, he also considers buying Jack an "extensive wardrobe" of school clothing nothing more than a "favour". By mentoring and helping Jack financially, he has provided him with a sense of hope and purpose for the future, coming closer to the academic and clean-cut person Jack has envisioned of transforming into. Perhaps, most importantly is the attention and affection that he receives from Mr Howard, whose smile was always "friendly and hopeful". This coupled with Jack's description that the "air of partnership" exuding from Mr Howard and his wife as "warming", something that he has experienced very little of in a volatile home, only reinforces the fact that Mr Howard is the type of person that Jack's troubled life needs, a genuine kind-hearted man, a "proper father figure".

Although Jack's life is full of turbulence and at times despair, with only his mother's love and his wild imagination to clutch on, a sympathetic father-like figure should be keeping him standing up and respected. What he is confronted with though is an array of peculiar men, from the impotent surrogate "fathers" such as Dwight and Roy, to compassionate beings like Mr Howard. So while several of these men have ridiculed, deceived and left Jack helpless in the journey towards a renewed self, not all have failed to cultivate Jack's sense of adequacy and to help with his personal development.
« Last Edit: April 06, 2015, 09:29:51 pm by xeon88 »