28 June 2014
The Subtle Relationship between Jack and His Mother
Tobias Wolff’s This Boy’s Life is memoir about the author and his travels with his mother through America. The novel was written and published in 1989. The journey across the continent is divided into two parts. In first phase of the journey, they travel to Utah from Florida, where his mother is running away from her abusive fiancé, and hopes to acquire riches after finding uranium. Throughout the book, Jack employs his thoughts as a place of solace that is absent from his sad home life. While growing up in Chinook, he always wishes to escape Dwight’s authority and the predetermined thoughts that people living there are tired of him. His attempts to escape are unfruitful, so he persistently withdraws into imaginary escapes, where he thinks that the rich-looking men on the streets are his parents. These imaginary fantasies help Jack temporarily avoid his miseries, of his life and homes, which he can endure through such illusions. Jack relationship with his mother is defined by his desires to run away from home, and redefine his identity. Jack attempts to achieve his desires through wayward means.
His stepfather who also assaults his mother constantly abuses Jack. The feelings the young boy experiences in such times, anger, fear, humiliation, and pain are strong catalysts in writing this memoir (Kandel 38). He says, “I forgot who I was. I heard a steady howling all around me as I thrashed on the floor. Then I was sitting on the couch, drenched in sweat, and my mother was trying to calm me. It was all over she said. This was it, this was the last time. We were getting out of here” (Wolff 231). This emotional memory is important self-definition and understanding his background. Emotions are significant to the functionality of memory, and memories are significant to the sense of identity. It is thus right to argue that emotions affected Jack’s identity development, in that his feelings shaped how and what he remembered, and such memories thus, includes Jack’s identity.
Jack’s lies are real to him, and he goes to the extent of internalizing these untruths to realities. This unfaltering belief in his own untruths is also evident in Jack’s belief in his abilities. Despite his poor performance in academics, he is convinced that he is a bright student and a member of the elite students in his class. This determination is particularly powerful when writes recommendation letters that should be written by his teachers. The recommendations letters he forges are full of exaggerations, cheerful praise that Jack believes as honest and true, despite being lies. Through studying The Status Seekers, Jack obtains instructions on how to “betray his origins” and adopt the lifestyle of the affluent families of the upper social classes. Many factors contributed to Jack’s wish to run away from home. These include unhappiness at home, and the need to find an opportunity to grow up in a place where his reputation his upheld. He declines to internalize the belief that he is a liar and thief, as claimed by Dwight. He wants people to see him as a good-hearted young man, who is influenced by unavoidable circumstances to escape from
His predicaments. He states, “When we are green, still half-created, we believe that our dreams are rights…and that falling and dying are for quitters. We live on the innocent and monstrous assurance that we…have a special arrangement whereby we will be allowed to stay green forever.” (Wolff 286)
His parents never fulfilled promises made to him. Making him lose hope in his parents and begin his life, through defining his identity. His childhood to teenage years Jack had promises of elegant gifts that never come true. He feels disappointed and overlooked because of such irresponsibility from his parents. Throughout the book, Jack’s life is surrounded by lies and disappointments, making him try to