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This Boy's Life

Tobias Wolff


Key Facts

Key Facts

full title · This Boy's Life

author · Tobias Wolff

genre · Memoir

language · English

time and place written · mid to late 1980s, New York

date of first publication · 1989

publisher · The Atlantic Monthly Press

narrator · Toby "Jack" Wolff

point of view · The narrator speaks in the first person, and creates an entirely subjective description of characters and events, frequently expressing personal judgment and bias.

tone · Jack's narration is consistently subjective and is often informal by means of colloquialisms, slang, and humor.

tense · Distant past; Jack is describing his childhood and adolescence as a middle-aged adult

setting (time) · A period of about ten years from 1955 to 1965.

setting (place) · The story begins en route from Florida to Utah, then moves to Washington state, first to Seattle, and then to Chinook.

protagonist · Toby "Jack" Wolff

major conflict · Jack continually struggles against Dwight's cruelty.

rising action · Jack is accepted to the Hill School and plans to leave Chinook in the fall; he begins to stand up for himself to Dwight

climax · Dwight injures Jack over an empty jar of mustard, and Rosemary decides that Jack will move out, and that she will finally leave Dwight.

falling action · Jack stays with Chuck Bolger and his family and readies himself for school at Hill.

themes · Escapism via Imagination; Desire and Desperation for Self-recreation; Promises Made, Promises Broken

motifs · Betrayal; Guilt and Self-loathing; White Paint

symbols · Jack's Winchester .22 Rifle; Dying Salmon; Moldy Beaver

foreshadowing · Jack's exaggerated portrayals of himself in his letters to Alice and Annette foretell his continuous and profound desire to use writing to transcend his circumstances.

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