By embarking on his own quest for an education, Tyler blazes a trail for Tara to follow. This is significant for a number of reasons. For one thing, it ignites a curiosity in Tara, a yearning for knowledge. For another, it proves that escape is in fact possible and shows her a way forward, a life beyond the mountain and the scrapyard. Tyler is an anomaly among the Westovers. He’s reserved, intelligent, and studious, and prefers reading and listening to classical music to working outside. His rejection of his family’s preferred path for him coincides with Tara’s increasing recognition of Gene’s mania, and the danger inherent in living at Buck’s Peak. 

As the other men in Tara’s family demonstrate disturbing levels of ignorance and violence, Tyler offers a stark contrast. He helps Tara achieve her independence, and, later on, validates her experiences, a notable departure from the actions of the rest of her family, who systematically gaslight her. The root of so much of Tara’s misery as the family sides with Shawn against her is that she is utterly alone, left to question, doubt, and regret. Though Tyler does not sever contact with the family, his support allows Tara to heal.