The Story of Tom Brennan

by

J. C. Burke

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The Story of Tom Brennan: Chapter Nine Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
At lunch the next Tuesday, Harvey pins up the results from tryouts. Tom waits until the crowd disperses to inspect it. He's unsurprised to see that he got half-back. Tom feels like he has his year mapped out for him as he heads up to the library. He's angry, as he's still not even sure he wants to play—but he knows he can't let Dad down. He finds a book, sits down in a quiet corner, and pretends to read. In actuality, he thinks about how he and Daniel used to drill ball-handling skills every day after school at home. That led to the beginning of “the legend of the Brennan brothers.”
The legend of the Brennan brothers came about because most of Tom and Daniel's relationship was rooted in their shared love of rugby. This suggests that some other important aspects of their relationship may have been neglected in favor of rugby, something that's evidenced by the way that Tom and Daniel spoke to each other on the night of the accident.
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After the accident, it was several weeks before Tom and Kylie went back to school. Matt and Snorter stuck close to Tom and Tom couldn't shake the belief that this sort of thing wasn't supposed to happen to his family. Tom saw counselor after counselor but felt checked out as Daniel's court date for sentencing, November 19, got closer. Though Mum and Dad did what they could to keep Daniel out of jail, Talbot made it clear that they'd be unsuccessful. Instead, the fight changed to trying to get his sentence shortened—he hoped to no more than three years.
Tom's belief that accidents like this weren't supposed to happen to the Brennans suggests that he views his entire family in much the same way that he views the legend of the Brennan brothers: as something that's exceptional and above normal laws that govern chance.
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Daniel wrote letters to Luke and Nicole's families and seemed truly sorry: he barely ate and spent most of his time crying. Then, one night when Gran and Brendan were visiting, Gran heard something at the door. Dad found a letter addressed to "the Brennans" from Nicole's family. Daniel asked him to read it out loud. Gran bravely took the letter and did as Daniel asked. Nicole's parents thanked Daniel but wrote that Daniel's words wouldn't bring Nicole back. They said that Nicole was lost to them forever and told Daniel to "remember his fellow man." They closed with the assertion that Daniel was an accident waiting to happen, said that no sentence will be long enough, and sent regards to Kath and Fin.
This letter, and particularly the assertion that no sentence will be long enough to properly punish Daniel, is a poignant reminder that redemption isn't going to come easily to Daniel, given that his carelessness killed two people. The fact that the letter is addressed to the entire Brennan family also implicates everyone in the events of that night and underhandedly blames Mum and Dad for not doing more to discipline Daniel's behavior in the weeks before the accident.
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After the first hearing, almost everyone stopped visiting the Brennans. Tom spent a lot of his time at Matt's but avoided seeing Snorter, as Snorter was still struggling to process the accident. Owen came around once or twice to see Daniel, and Claire visited as well. Mum and Kylie couldn't stand her visiting, but her visits made Dad and Tom feel as though something was still normal. Sometimes, she'd come out of Daniel's room with her hair mussed and then, Daniel would eat something.
It's unclear exactly what Claire is going for here, given that she was afraid of Daniel prior to the accident. Her implied willingness to have sex with him suggests that the guilt Daniel feels is actually enough to earn back the attention of one person he hurt, which again shows that redemption will come at various times for Daniel.
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One night, Tom overheard Mum and Daniel talking. Mum was angrily insisting that Claire's visits weren't good for Daniel and insinuating that the accident was Claire's fault. Daniel angrily disagreed, especially when Mum pointed out that Claire could just get on with her life. Tom knew that wasn't true: Claire left Mumbilli before even taking her final exams; her parents found her a nanny position overseas.
Claire's departure reinforces the novel's assertion that Daniel didn't just kill and seriously injure two people—the effects of what he did are far-reaching, and Mumbilli as a unit will suffer for it. Mum's desire to blame Claire is an attempt to shift responsibility away from herself and Dad.
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The morning of Daniel's hearing, Tom woke to the sound of Daniel vomiting. Later, Mum and Dad nearly turned green when Talbot told them that Judge Williams would hear Daniel's case. Tom knew it was the last time he'd see Daniel as a free man.
The discovery that Judge Williams will hear the case implies that Daniel will have to pay more in terms of legal action for what he did than he might have otherwise.
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In the courtroom, Tom could see Nicole and Luke's parents, as well as Matt and his mother. They all sat and listened to Judge Williams talk about Daniel's depressed mental state, the letters he wrote, the counseling he received, and his excellent character references. Despite all this, Judge Williams insisted that he couldn't sentence Daniel lightly for good character. He told Daniel that because he was a team player, he should've known better the kind of responsibility he took on by driving his friends drunk and angry. Judge Williams sentenced Daniel to five years in jail with a non-parole period of three years.
Given what Tom has said (and will go on to say) about how Daniel behaved in the weeks leading up to the accident, it's likely that Daniel's good character references were based more on Daniel's behavior long before the incident. However, remember too that Tom has implied that Daniel had a cruel streak that was visible long ago. Taken together, this suggests that the character references may have referred more to the Brennan family as a whole.
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