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This Boy's Life

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Nikki Madigan

on 21 May 2013

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Transcript of This Boy's Life

The first duty in life is to assume a pose. What the second is, no one has yet discovered. NIKKI MADIGAN IDENTITY We form our sense of identity from the very moment we are born, we do this by observing and adjusting to society

This Boy’s Life depicts Wolff’s attempts to gain and construct his self-identity, thwarted by the constraints imparted upon him by society

Tobias (known in the book as Jack) finds himself in a variety of circumstances in which he adopts a specific persona to portray BACKGROUND Tobias Wolff’s first memoir, details his tumultuous childhood and transition into adolescence

Set in the 1950’s and 60’s, recounts traveling from Florida to Utah, and then from Utah to Washington with his mother

Depicts personal changes, search for self-identity, and conflicts with family, friends, and self "My stepfather used to say what I didn't know could fill a book. Well, here it is." “I wanted to call myself Jack, after Jack London. I believed that having his name would charge me with some of the strength and competence inherent in my idea of him.” FALSE CONFESSION When sent to give a confession, Jack is at first unable to produce any real confessional information about his life

After being sent back, Wolff lies and fakes the confession, using an example a nun gave him about her own misgivings as a child “I thought about what to confess, but I could not break my sense of being at fault down to its components. Trying to get a particular sin out of it was like fishing in a swamp…” WRONG CROWD Due to his lack of self identity, Wolff found himself in less than admirable circumstances

He felt contained by others’ perceptions of him, unable to break away and fulfill his own perceived potential “I recognized no obstacle to miraculous change than the incredulity of others.” “If I couldn’t have [distinction] as a citizen I would have it as an outlaw.” DASHED HOPE In an attempt to escape his circumstances, and to reinvent himself entirely, Wolff falsifies transcripts and letters of recommendation to attend a private prep school

Received scholarship for The Hill, only to eventually fail and face expulsion years later "... I was alone before the mirror. [If] the elegant stranger in the glass ... had seen the fissures in my character he might have known ... he was headed for all kinds of trouble..." THE RESOLUTION NOT WRITTEN This Boy’s Life offers no concrete proof or indication that the young protagonist ever found his way

It is then, the actual writing and success of the memoir that, in and of itself, accounts for the resolution readers hope for “Because I did not know who I was, any image of myself, no matter how grotesque, had power over me. This much I understand now. But the man can give no help to the boy… the boy moves always out of reach.”
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