Critical Analysis of This Boy's Life by Tobias Wolff Essay

Critical Analysis of This Boy's Life by Tobias Wolff Essay

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This Boy's Life is the autobiographical account of teenager. Toby and his mother's search for financial stability and a peaceful life. Toby’s family was split down the middle as a child, leaving his father and older brother on the East Coast and, for the most part, uninvolved in Toby’s life. The story begins when Toby and his mother, Rosemary, leave her abusive boyfriend in Florida to take their chances at becoming rich in the uranium mines in Utah. They are short on money, a theme that continually comes up throughout the book, but full of hope and love for each other. Unfortunately, as they arrive in Utah, they discover the uranium resources have already been bled dry and they must go to Salt Lake City where Rosemary manages to get a job as a secretary. Soon afterwards, the ex-boyfriend follows the pair to Salt Lake City and rejoins their life. His abusive behavior continues and Toby and Rosemary are forced to flee again. This time fate lands them on a bus headed for Seattle. Once in Washington, Rosemary finds a group of female friends who encourage her to start dating, eventually landing her with a relationship and later marriage with yet another abusive man, Dwight. The mother and son pair is in a constant fight for a better way to live in terms of security and stability, but their love and loyalty to each other is solid.

Toby seems to show signs of emotional and behavioral disorders in his journey through adolescence. He develops many different distinct personalities at various points to try to evade the harsh realities of his life. In the beginning of the novel, he expresses a...


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...ter fighter by tormenting him. Wolff admits that, “All of Dwight's complaints against me had the aim of giving me a definition of myself. They succeeded, but not in the way I wished. I defined myself in opposition to him. In the past, I had been ready, even when innocent, to believe any evil thing of myself. Now that I had grounds for guilt I could no longer feel it.” His admission of oblivion to his disorder becomes realistic when explained in this context. Despite seeing him repeatedly change his identity, lie, steal, take excessive risks, and act generally wild and out of control at times, the reader somehow still comes out believing in and loving this lost young man. His spirit to survive and loyalty to his mother shine through, forcing readers to recognize, but look past the emotional and behavioral disorders that sometimes hinder his journey towards freedom.

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