Tobias Wolff

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Themes and Colors
Fear of Emotion Theme Icon
Family and Class Theme Icon
Imagination, Rationality, and Escape Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Flyboys, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Fear of Emotion

In “Flyboys,” the narrator is afraid of emotion. This is particularly evident in his reactions to Clark and Freddy: he’s comfortable in Clark’s big, empty house that’s devoid of life and emotion, but he can’t stand being in Freddy’s house, because it feels so full of emotion—both good emotion (love and fun) and bad emotion (grief). The narrator is clearly more personally suited to being among Freddy’s family, which shares his imaginative love of…

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Family and Class

The narrator evaluates his current friend Clark and his former friend Freddy based more on their families’ wealth than on their personal characteristics. From Clark’s big house and the family photo albums showing boats and cars, the narrator gets a positive impression of Clark’s family: he assumes that they are great, lucky people who have never been troubled by hardship. Freddy’s family, on the other hand, is perpetually plagued by bad luck. They live in…

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Imagination, Rationality, and Escape

The narrator and Clark are trying to build a plane, which seems—for both of them—like an attempt to escape the dreariness of their families. The narrator’s family is implied to be on the brink of divorce, while Clark’s home seems loveless and empty, and his mother has issues with anger. The plane’s symbolism itself is one of escape: it’s a machine on which they could fly away from their problems. But the actual process…

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