The Story of Tom Brennan

by

J. C. Burke

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The Story of Tom Brennan: Chapter Four Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Gran and Pa's property is called "Saint Marguerite Bourgeoy's" after Saint Marguerite, one of Gran's favorite saints. Daniel used to call it "Saint Marge's Boogie." Pa left his onsite tractor repair business to Brendan after he died, and now Jonny works there too. The sheds where they work stand where Gran's beloved chicken coop once was, and Mum believes Gran never got over having to get rid of the chickens. According to Daniel, the business moved from town because Pa lost the town property betting on racehorses. Tom thinks that Pa only took Daniel to the races, even though Fin was the one who truly loved horses. Thinking about it and the fact that things will never be the same again, Tom feels as though he's being sucked into a black tunnel.
It's worth considering that if Gran truly loved the chickens as much as Mum suggests she did, it was a major sacrifice for her to give up her coop for the sake of her husband's business. This suggests that in Gran's eyes, sacrificing for family members is something that makes family meaningful in the first place. Despite this, Tom's discussion of Pa's obvious favoritism suggests that not all of the family's relationships are without dysfunction; Fin clearly got the short end of the stick here.
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Related Quotes
The night of the accident, Tom looked at the sky as he walked home. He heard a car coming, blaring the horn. He figured it was Daniel, but it was Snorter and Matt. Matt was yelling for Tom to come; Daniel crashed the car. In the present, Tom tries to clear his head of the thoughts as he walks out to the sheds. He sees Jonny's boots poking out from under a tractor, and Jonny sends Tom into Brendan's house to check email.
Again, when Tom focuses on the memories of Snorter and Matt coming to get him so they could help at the scene of the accident, it shows that at least in terms of the greater Mumbilli community, Tom did have friends and people to look out for him and was involved in looking out for others as well.
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Tom hears the shower going so he lets himself in. Brendan’s house isn't what Tom remembers; there are empty bottles and cans everywhere and the place is a mess. Tom thinks that despite the fact that he spent so much time here as a kid, he doesn't know much about Brendan save for the fact that he's gay. He remembers one Christmas that Brendan brought a girl for lunch and overhearing Mum and Aunty Kath giggling about whether Gran prays to a patron saint of gay sons.
The empty bottles imply that Brendan is suffering as a result of the accident, just like the rest of the family. It also suggests that Daniel wasn't the only family member with an affinity for alcohol, which again reinforces that family dynamics and events are important factors in contributing to how someone moves through the world.
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Tom thinks Daniel truly knew Brendan; the two spent a lot of time together. He notices a photo on Brendan's desk of Mum, Brendan, and Aunty Kath fishing as kids. He then notices another frame turned over; it holds a photo of Daniel and Mum one Christmas. Tom thinks of how close Mum and Daniel were as Brendan comes out of the bathroom, wrapped in a towel. He mentions that the photo of Mum and Daniel is one of his favorites, and he and Tom painfully discuss how that Christmas was great.
Despite Tom's descriptions of Daniel as angry, scary, and out of control in a rugby team setting, it's clear that Daniel was a valued part of the extended family. This elicits sympathy for Daniel and implies that one's relationship with their family, at times, might not have any bearing on how they interact with others.
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Brendan tries to talk to Tom about school and give him the "time is a healer" talk, but Tom cuts him off and asks to check his email. Tom thinks that he only found out a week ago that his family was leaving Mumbilli. He'd been so numb that he hadn't thought much of Dad packing boxes, but figured the need to go was obvious after someone left graffiti on their garage for the third time. Tom had spent much of his time at Matt's house. Then, Dad came home one night and told Tom and Kylie that they needed to pack and not tell anyone they're leaving.
The mention of graffiti on the Brennans' garage in Mumbilli shows that after the accident, the town truly turned against them and left the family friendless and unsupported. The fact that Mum and Dad chose to turn to family reinforces the idea that blood is thicker than water, and that family is more reliable than friends, even in a close-knit small town like Mumbilli.
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Tom had mailed Matt a letter the night before he left, telling him what happened. They never got to say goodbye. This bothers Tom, as Matt was the only one who stood by him after the accident. Snorter had shut down and wouldn't talk about anything. When Tom logs into his email, he's relieved to find an email from Matt. Matt writes that he's not sure what he's going to do with himself on Australia Day, but he understands why the Brennans left. He asks Tom to say hi to Fin for him and mentions that Mumbilli is teeming with rumors.
The fact that Matt continues to email Tom after the Brennans leave town begins to show that Matt is truly a good friend—he doesn't seem to hold the sudden and unexplained move against Tom, which offers some hope that the two will be able to continue their friendship going forward.
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Tom soaks up the words and then starts a reply. He writes that he has to repeat Year Eleven and that he's going to St. Benedict's in Coghill. He realizes the phone is ringing but lets it go to voicemail. It's Aunty Kath, updating Brendan on Fin and asking about the plan for the weekend. This makes Tom think of Fin. He stares at his email, feeling ashamed, and deletes it. He thinks he hasn't seen Fin in about a month, as seeing him is very difficult. Fin seems to get thinner and bitterer every time.
The word choice that Tom "soaks up" Matt's email indicates that Tom craves friendship and this kind of a relationship. This offers more support for the suspicion that Tom is attempting to isolate himself to protect himself from potential hurt or betrayal, given that he absolutely wants to be surrounded by people who care about him.
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The last time that Tom saw Fin, the hospital air conditioning was broken. Fin lay in bed with no sheet over him, so Tom could see his skinny, wasted legs. They'd talked about what was going on in Mumbilli, and Tom mentioned that Snorter wrecked his trail bike again. When Fin said that Snorter's wreck could've been worse, Tom thought that every topic of conversation seems to lead back to the spinal unit, which is filled with daredevils like Snorter who take risks and get in accidents. Fin wasn't a daredevil; he just made the one bad decision to trust Daniel.
Later, Tom explains that the accident paralyzed Fin's arms and legs; this is why his legs are skinny and wasted. This also shows that Daniel didn't kill Fin over Claire, but he did doom him to a horrific fate and took Fin's life as he knew it away. This is made even worse by the fact that Fin and Daniel are cousins; in turn, this shows that families have the power to hurt as much as help each other.
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Later, Gran cooks lamb fry, which smells awful. Tom decides to eat cereal. When Dad notices Tom looking for cereal, he winks and says it's all gone. Tom mutters and asks where Kylie is. Dad says she's out with a new friend, Brianna Henderson. Gran whispers that Brianna's family is Anglican, but they seem nice. She and Dad try to give Tom a pep talk about making friends, and Gran specifically suggests that Tom make friends with Simon Whelan. Tom thinks that Simon is disgusting; he creepily watches younger girls and doesn't seem nice at all.
The humorous nature of Gran's comment about Brianna's religion aside, her willingness to accept that Brianna is nice and could be a good friend regardless of religion shows that Gran recognizes the importance of friendship as Tom and Kylie settle in. Her suggestion that Tom befriend Simon, however, shows that she's out of touch and not the best resource for friends themselves.
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Gran asks Dad about his plans to take Mum and see Daniel the next day. She suggests that Tom go with Brendan to see Fin and Aunty Kath, and then mentions that Fin will move to a rehab facility soon. She says that there's some movement in his shoulder but he's still very depressed. Tom thinks that Gran must enjoy guilt-tripping his family and clears the plates to get away from her.
Again, Tom's language is telling: saying "his family" pushes Gran outside of the family umbrella, which suggests that right now, Tom desperately wants his nuclear family to be whole again and sees extended family as meddling and unnecessary.
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