Flyboys

by

Tobias Wolff

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Tanker Character Analysis

Tanker is Freddy’s brother. Prior to the time of the story, Tanker died in a motorcycle accident, which has left Freddy’s family burdened with grief. When Tanker was alive, he served as a positive male role model for Freddy and the narrator. He was the only one who could call Ivan out on his hair-brained schemes because Ivan had such a soft spot for his stepson. In fact, Tanker had a way of pulling not only his stepfather in, but everyone. The narrator has fond memories of Ivan taking him and Freddy on camping trips and how he used to carve woodland creatures into the wood of the dining table when he would regale them with stories about his life. In his tales, he would make embarrassing or difficult experiences seem vital, showing them how to be vulnerable in front of others.

Tanker Quotes in Flyboys

The Flyboys quotes below are all either spoken by Tanker or refer to Tanker. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Fear of Emotion Theme Icon
).
Flyboys Quotes

This was a very unlucky family. Bats took over their attic. Their cars laid transmissions like eggs. They got caught switching license plates and dumping garbage illegally and owing back taxes, or at least Ivan did. Ivan was Freddy’s stepfather and a world of bad luck all by himself. He wasn’t vicious or evil, just full of cute ideas that got him in trouble and make things even worse than they already were…Tanker was the only one who could stand up to Ivan, and not just because he was bigger and more competent. Ivan had a soft spot for him. After the accident he took to his bed for almost a week, then vanished.

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker), Ivan, Tanker
Related Symbols: Mud
Page Number: 150
Explanation and Analysis:

Sometimes she came out to offer us a sandwich and ask us questions about our day, but I wished she wouldn’t. I had never seen such sorrow; it appalled me. And I was even more appalled by her attempts to overcome it, because they so plainly, pathetically failed, and in failing opened up the view of a world I had only begun to suspect, where wounds did not heal, and things did not work out for the best.

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker), Freddy’s Mom, Tanker
Related Symbols: Sandwiches
Page Number: 151
Explanation and Analysis:

“Past her prime—has been for years.”

“Yessir,” Freddy said. “She’s long in the tooth and that’s a fact.”

“Ready for the pasture,” I said.

“Over the hill,” Freddy said.

“That’s it exactly,” Ivan said. “I just can’t bring myself to sell her.” His jaw started quaking and I thought with horror that he was about to cry. But he didn’t. He caught his lower lip under his teeth, sucked it musingly, and pushed it out again.

Related Characters: Ivan (speaker), Freddy (speaker), Narrator (speaker), Tanker
Related Symbols: Mud
Page Number: 153
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Flyboys LitChart as a printable PDF.
Flyboys PDF

Tanker Character Timeline in Flyboys

The timeline below shows where the character Tanker appears in Flyboys. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Flyboys
Fear of Emotion Theme Icon
Imagination, Rationality, and Escape Theme Icon
...On the tabletop are images of animals and fish that were carved by Freddy’s brother, Tanker. He used to drink beer and tell them stories while he worked the wood with... (full context)
Family and Class Theme Icon
The narrator thinks of Tanker again, who was killed in a motorcycle accident. In contrast to Clark’s lucky family, the... (full context)
Fear of Emotion Theme Icon
Imagination, Rationality, and Escape Theme Icon
The narrator remembers how, when Tanker was home, everyone would sit at the table listening to his stories. He told stories... (full context)
Fear of Emotion Theme Icon
Family and Class Theme Icon
After Tanker’s death, the house lost its joy. It became quiet and empty, even after Ivan returned.... (full context)
Fear of Emotion Theme Icon
Imagination, Rationality, and Escape Theme Icon
In this period of time after Tanker’s death, the narrator recalls one day where he and Freddy were outside shooting baskets. Freddy’s... (full context)
Fear of Emotion Theme Icon
Imagination, Rationality, and Escape Theme Icon
All three boys follow Ivan outside and consider the dilemma of Tanker’s old, beat-up pickup truck stuck in the mud. Ivan says the truck is “past her... (full context)
Fear of Emotion Theme Icon
Family and Class Theme Icon
Imagination, Rationality, and Escape Theme Icon
...Freddy and the narrator each take long showers. Freddy’s mother gives the narrator some of Tanker’s old clothes to wear and sends him home with his muddy clothing wrapped in butcher-paper.... (full context)