’s Life Essay, Research Paper
This Boy’s Life
Mark Twain once said, “We are creatures of outside influences — we originate nothing within. Whenever we take a new line of thought and drift into a new line of belief and action, the impulse is always suggested from the outside.” In the memoir This Boy’s Life, by Tobias Wolff Jack shows that he is a creature of outside influence. Some examples of this are that he copies what his friends do, he doesn’t try to shape his own life, and he is heavily influenced by the male figures in his life.
Throughout this novel, Jack does whatever his friends do. When he was living in Seattle with his mother, he was influenced by his new friends to do bad things. His friends, Silver and Terry were kids with no one to discipline them. They befriended Jack and together they caused lots of trouble, “We broke street lights. We opened the doors of parked cars on hills and released the emergency brakes so the smashed into the cars below…. And we stole”(61). This shows that although Jack is good on the inside, he does whatever his friends do. Later when he and his mom move to Concrete, he follows the same pattern. Although he says he wants to start over and be a good kid, he ends up getting bad friends. He starts ditching school more often, smokes and drinks, and his grades fall. To keep Dwight and his mom from finding out, he forges his grades.
Jack does not shape his own life. Many times in the novel Jack imagines who he wants to be, and gives other people the impression that he’s someone else, but he never tries to achieve anything to become what he imagines. Early on, he had a pen pal he wrote to, “We were supposed to write once a month but I wrote at least once a week, ten, twelve, fifteen pages at a time. I represented myself to her as the owner of a palomino horse named Smiley who shared my encounters with mountain lions, rattlesnakes, and packs of coyotes on my father’s ranch, the Lazy B”(13). This is a good example, its shows how he imagines things and tries to make other people believe that’s who he is, which happens numerous times in the memoir. When he arrived at the Welch’s farm, he saw himself being in the same situation that the Welchs were in. This shows that he has no ambition to become anything, and just assumes he will have a bad life. All this is mostly due to the fact that no one inspires him to do anything. Another example of this is his attitude about school. He wants to be good and educated like his brother, yet he does horribly in school and gets worse every year.
Throughout the book, Jack is heavily influenced by the male figures in his life. His father leaving his mother left Jack feeling insecure during his childhood. He didn’t have a real father to discipline him. When Roy beat Rosemary, Jack picked up the idea that that’s the way things were. Later when Dwight did the same to Rosemary, Jack didn’t really care that much. This obviously shows how Jack is influenced in the novel. Since both his father and brother went to a prep school, and his brother goes to Princeton, he feels like he needs to be like them. Although his grades are low, he lies to his brother that he is doing great in school, and lies about that he is a eagle scout. He forged his way into a prep school because he wants to be like his father and brother. Throughout the book Jack disliked Dwight, he never had any sort off father son bond with him. This was good, because instead of acting like Dwight, Jack tried to make sure not to be like Dwight in any way. The only exception is that Dwight pretty much approved of Jack fighting and drinking. This made Jack more inclined to fight and drink, “ ‘I got drunk and fell off a cliff.’ He(Dwight) grinned in spite of himself, just as I knew he would. These examples clearly show how Jack is influenced from the outside.
Although in the memoir Jack is shown as an easily manipulated child, Tobias Wolff tries to show throughout the memoir that the quote, “we originate nothing within” is only true when you believe it’s true. At the end of the memoir, Jack’s impulse comes from inside, not from someone else. Although he gets into prep school under false documents, he does get in, because he started to believe that he could do it himself. He wanted to leave Concrete and he did.
just the book