Analysis

Champion evokes Jack's compassion because the dog reminds him so much of himself. Jack feels that, like Champion, he is neglected and unloved by his family, and feels as if his life were unimportant to them. Jack's sympathy for Champion is only exacerbated by the guilt he feels for striking him, especially because his violence toward the dog is reminiscent of the violence that Jack has suffered at Dwight's hands. Jack's newfound awareness that he is capable of inflicting the same kind of cruelty as Dwight both startles and scares him. Jack's ongoing desire for independence is also what inclines him to sneak out in the car at night, driving a little further each time and hoping that someday he will have the courage to just keep driving. Jack's feelings of unworthiness and inadequacy become debilitating when he cannot bring himself to confess his love for Rhea Clark. He is petrified that she will laugh at him, or even be insulted by his admission of love. Even when Rhea agrees to dance with him, he attributes this to her naivete—because she is a new girl at school, Jack reasons, she must know nothing of his reputation. This rationale fuels Jack's already strong desire to escape to a new place where he can create the life he imagines for himself. Jack's lack of self- confidence is so severe that he fears disappointing even the promiscuous girls who throw themselves at him. Jack also rejects these girls, however, because he is strong enough to maintain his principles, even in the face of temptation. Although it may seem strange that Jack is pleased to have fallen into a concrete-covered ditch, and that he chooses to spend the night there, this gully should be seen as a place of emotional relief. As he listens to his friends calling out to him, expressing concern for his well-being, Jack is refreshed and reassured. Although he is lying bruised and battered at the bottom of a ditch, Jack, for the first time, can finally experience his fantasy of being loved and wanted, as he is finally in his "perfect place."