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This Boy's Life

Tobias Wolff

Part Six, Chapters 3–5; Part Seven

Part Six, Chapters 1–2

Important Quotations Explained

Summary

Chapter 3

When Rosemary leaves Chinook, Pearl feels abandoned, so Jack sometimes asks her to have lunch with him at school. During one of their lunches together, Pearl mentions that Dwight is planning on driving to Seattle that night to persuade Rosemary to return with him to Chinook. Jack is disheartened to hear this, as he had hoped to see his mother the following day, after he has driven to Seattle to meet Mr. Howard at the tailor's. Now that Jack knows there is a chance Dwight may be in Seattle, Jack does not dare to go.

After talking with Pearl, Jack decides that he will break into Dwight's house while Dwight is away in Seattle. Chuck accompanies Jack to the house and is furious when Jack lingers, reading Pearl's diary and inspecting his old room. Jack steals Dwight's guns, a pair of binoculars, a hunting knife, and a leather shotgun sheath. Chuck places the stolen items in the trunk of the car and covers them with sandbags in case they are stopped on the way back to Chuck's house.

Chapter 4

The following day, Jack meets Mr. Howard and his wife at their tailor in Seattle to be fitted for a new school wardrobe. Mr. Howard is welcoming, but reminds Jack that the Hill School is difficult and may not be right for him. Mr. Howard is afraid he has been too influential in Jack's decision to attend Hill, but Jack reassures Mr. Howard that this is not the case and reiterates how excited he is for the fall semester. Jack feels loved and appreciated as Mr. and Mrs. Howard fawn over him in the tailor shop.

Chapter 5

After his visit with Mr. Howard, Jack goes into three pawnshops before finding one that will buy the items he stole from Dwight. Jack tells the pawnbroker that his father willed these items to him when he died. The pawnbroker, a rather disagreeable woman, argues with Jack about the value of the items and is only willing to offer him a small percent of what each is worth. Jack is pained when he watches her slam the barrel of his gun shut with obvious disrespect. Jack haggles with her about the prices, but accepts her final offer of sixty dollars. On his way out, Jack drops the pawn tickets into the gutter.

Part Seven: Amen

Following his trip to Seattle, Jack goes to California for the purpose of spending the summer with his father and his brother Geoffrey. Just one day after Jack arrives, his father leaves for Las Vegas with his girlfriend, leaving Jack with the keys to a rented Pontiac and a charge account at the grocery store to use while he is away. Jack's father asks a friend to look after Jack, but this friend turns out to be a pedophile and tries to make a move on sixteen-year-old Jack. When Jack calls his father and tells him that his supposed caretaker has tried to seduce him, Jack's father tells Jack to protect himself with the Air Force Survival Rifle he has stashed in his closet and shoot the man if he returns. That night, the man stands outside of Jack's apartment door and sobs while inside Jack clutches the rifle, fearful that he may have to use it.

Only days after returning from Las Vegas in time for Geoffrey's arrival home, Jack's father is arrested and committed to a sanitarium, where he remains for the rest of the summer. As a result, Geoffrey has to forfeit his initial plan of completing his novel to work and support the family financially. Meanwhile, Jack runs wild, but Geoffrey encourages him to read and write.

During Christmas break, after Jack has begun school at Hill, Dwight finds Rosemary at her new home in Washington, D.C. and tries to strangle her in the lobby of their apartment building. Rosemary knees Dwight in the groin, and he steals her purse and runs away. Immediately afterward, Dwight is arrested, but Jack feels guilty for not attempting to save his mother from the attack. Jack actually heard noises coming from the lobby, but because it was a bad neighborhood, assumed someone else was in trouble. This is the last time Jack will ever see Dwight.

Not surprisingly, Jack is thrown out of Hill halfway through his senior year, as he is simply unable to make the grades necessary to compete with the other students. Afterward, Jack joins the army and serves in the ##Vietnam War#

As an adult, Jack remembers driving back to Chinook from Seattle, singing hymns and listening to the radio. He marvels at how free he felt to be starting a new life in a new place, where he would finally have the opportunity to recreate himself.

Analysis

Robbing Dwight of his most prized possessions does not satisfy Jack the way he had hoped it would. Initially, Jack thinks that this act of vengeance will provide him with some sense of revenge, but afterward realizes that no revenge will compensate for Dwight's having robbed Jack of carefree, happy childhood.

Despite the disappointment he feels after having pawned the items he has stolen from Dwight, Jack remains hopeful for the future, especially now that he has finally been given the chance to leave Chinook and realize the image of himself that he has created in his mind and in his application to the Hill School. Wolff remembers feeling especially overjoyed the night he and Chuck drive back from Seattle, singing as if they have quite literally been "saved." In Jack's case, this salvation comes from Mr. Howard and the Hill School, while Chuck has been saved by Huff, who will marry Tina in Chuck's place. On this night, as he enjoys his newfound bliss and freedom, Jack feels he will "be allowed to stay green forever." The term "green" connotes youth, innocence, and inexperience, all of which fuel Jack's rosy view of what his future will hold.

In this state of "greenness," Jack feels like the glorious fate he has imagined for himself is around the corner, although he thinks without any pragmatism and gives no consideration to how he will actually realize this idealized image of himself. In his naivété, Jack does not presume that his future could possibly hold more tragedy. In fact, in the future Jack's father is committed to a sanitarium, Dwight tries to strangle Rosemary, and Jack is expelled from Hill. As he drives, however, Jack can only savor the future as the chance for a new life and a source of endless possibility.

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