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This Boy's Life

Tobias Wolff

Part Two, Chapters 1–2

Part One, Chapters 3–4

Part Two, Chapters 1–2, page 2

page 1 of 2

Chapter 1

Jack and his mother move to a dilapidated boardinghouse in West Seattle, where Rosemary is one of three female residents. The other two are Kathy, a simple-looking, timid young woman who is pregnant and unwed, and Marian, the housekeeper. Marian is a large, ogre-like woman who tells Rosemary to discipline Jack more severely. For this reason, Marian and Jack despise one another.

Jack's two best friends in Seattle are Terry Taylor and Terry Silver. Like Jack, both boys are being raised by single mothers. Taylor's father never returned from the ##Korean War# and Silver's parents are divorced. After school, the boys cause trouble, stealing from local stores, crashing stolen bikes, and admiring guns, particularly the Luger, a pistol used by the Nazis in ##World War II# Silver owns a Nazi armband that he swears is authentic, but that is obviously homemade. While wearing the armband, Silver orders Taylor and Jack around and makes prank calls to people in the phone book with Jewish-sounding surnames, whom he screams at in "pig German."

The boys spend all of their time at Silver's apartment. Jack cannot bring them home because Phil, the owner of the boardinghouse, has forbidden him to bring children back with him. Phil is deformed by burns and Jack cannot help but stare at him in awe and disgust. Jack, Silver, and Taylor admire themselves in a vanity mirror and try their best to look cool. Afterwards, they watch the Mickey Mouse Club and make vulgar references to Annette, one of the show's stars. Jack writes letters to Annette in which he lies to impress her. Initially, Jack receives form letters in return, but when he continues to exaggerate his life and love for Annette, he ceases to receive even form mail from her. Jack is bitter and fantasizes about suffering a debilitating accident in front of Annette's house, leaving her no choice but to take pity and care for him.

From the roof of Silver's apartment, the boys spot a man driving a Thunderbird, a car they regard more highly than even a Corvette. They pound the driver and his Thunderbird with eggs. The driver is furious, but does not see the boys on the roof. Since his car has been hit with quite a few eggs, the driver shows no reaction when he is by yet another egg. This infuriates the boys and renders them silent until Silver screams at the driver, calling him "Yid," a hateful term for a Jewish person.

Chapter 2

Jack and his mother attend a mock naval battle where they meet two men, named Gil and Judd, who stand nearby sipping bottles of beer. Gil takes a romantic interest in Rosemary and invites her and Jack back to his and Judd's house for lunch. Initially, Rosemary is hesitant to go. Jack does not like either man very much, although he warms to them eventually. The men promise Jack a hamburger for lunch, and he begrudgingly agrees to go along.

Gil and Judd's house is large and beautiful compared to Jack and Rosemary's apartment. The men nearly forget about Jack's lunch, and eventually give him dish of nuts instead of a hamburger. Gil talks to Jack about sports and is overly enthusiastic in hopes of impressing Rosemary. Gil asks Jack what he enjoys and Jack answers by telling him that he likes riding bikes, although he does not have one of his own. This hits on a volatile topic between Jack and his mother. They have discussed this issue before, and although Rosemary would like Jack to own a bike, she has no money to buy him one. Gil continues to react to Jack's every word with a dramatic flourishes, and feigns incredulity at the fact that Jack does not own a bike. Gil promises that he will buy Jack an English Racer, the best bike on the market. Rosemary argues that she cannot accept such a gift, but Gil insists.

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Incorrect Information

by xx20, January 08, 2015

No where is Kenneth's religion even suggested, much less imposed on others. He is annoying in that he loves to argue and make people despise him.
Roy and Rosemary were never married; he was Rosemary's ex-boyfriend but stalks her against her will.


1 out of 3 people found this helpful


by Orcus74, May 05, 2015

Thanks for your help Sparknotes

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