This Boy’s Life

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This Boy’s Life

In both the film and the book This Boy’s Life Tobias Wolff is surrounded by bad role models and terrible father figures. Wolff and his mother are constantly looking for the complete family life and find themselves in a series of bad situations on their quest. In the book Toby’s relationship with his mother Rosemary is illustrated in a clear and deeper manner but the movie just didn’t seem to focus on it enough. This paper will evaluate the portrayal of Toby’s relationship with his mother and the men in their lives as told in the memoir and the film.

The relationship that Toby has with his mother is a very strong bond. That is evident in the film and the book. But what Toby lacks in both versions of this story is a good father figure, which his mother seems to be always on a journey to find for him. Early in the book Toby has several misadventures with bad influences, whether they are friends or father-like figures. Roy seems to be one of the first influences to really catch the reader’s eye. He follows Toby and his mother all the way to Utah from Florida mostly just to be with Rosemary. Roy uses Toby to get to Rosemary in many ways, for example when he buys Toby the rifle or when he takes him to spy on Rosemary at work and follow her home. Roy makes this seem like it is a game to Toby and befriends him this way. This portrayal of Roy is very well done in the film, too. To me this is a very important part of the story in general, because after you read the book and see the film, almost all the men who come into Toby’s life treat him in some way like Roy treats him.

Anything it took to get to his mother seems to be the theme of the story. This behavior would have a very traumatizing effect on any young child at that time in their life, but with the influence Toby’s mother has on him he is always trying to find a way out of bad situations. Another example to this theme would be the chapter in the book when Toby and his mother go to Alkai Point to watch the mock naval battle and they run into the two men. They had left Roy not long before that and moved to Seattle so they could escape him again. This must have worked, finally, because Roy does not try to find them for the rest of the story. This chapter is not used in the film and probably could have been omitted from the book, but it des...

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...e he belongs. He sets out to be a wise guy, masking the uncertainty he feels. His stepfather, Dwight, masking his own demons and insecurities, also sets out on a mission to drive Toby down to his level. It’s to

Toby’s credit that he doesn’t want to stay down and that’s enough of an edge. Instinctively using the creative license of his absent father, he finds a tenuous way out--enough of a break to set him on a better path.” (Salavarria)

Of course the film could not add all these things that I feel make it weaker than the book. It would have become a short television series or something like that if all these things were added. The story had a very long list of characters and became very involved at some points, but I think this made the book interesting to more than one audience. Some parts of Toby’s life were very comical and fun, some parts left you on the edge of your seat, making you wander why he did some of the more consequential things that he did.

In closing I feel that the book did a much better job than the film of illustrating the life of Wolff. The book made Toby’s relationship with his mother and the men that were in their life much more dramatic.
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