The Story of Tom Brennan

by

J. C. Burke

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Story of Tom Brennan can help.

The Story of Tom Brennan: Chapter Sixteen Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Tom sits next to Kylie, puts his arms around her, and tells her that her hair isn't that bad. She insists it's not her hair and starts to sob. Tom thinks the look in her eyes is the same as it was the first few days after the accident: terrified and lost. Finally, she gulps that she has a secret about Fin and Claire. Tom insists that everyone knew they liked each other, but Kylie shushes him. She says that she and Fin used to talk about Claire; Fin couldn't believe that Claire liked him, since all the girls wanted Daniel.
The fact that Kylie has been hiding a secret about the accident makes her volatile behavior make more sense: she's likely very guilty about whatever it is and feels totally alone about it. Unlike Tom, who now has an entire rugby team to support him, Kylie is comparatively alone, and her language implies that she hasn't shared this information with Brianna.
Themes
Friendship and Teamwork Theme Icon
Identity and Independence Theme Icon
Debt and Redemption Theme Icon
Kylie asks Tom if he remembers the fight that Fin and Daniel had the week before the sudden death match. It started because Fin talked to Claire, and Daniel was jealous. Kylie says that Daniel knew he was losing Claire, and it made him especially mad that he was losing her to Fin. She brings up the time in Year Nine when Daniel found out which girl Fin wanted to take and then asked her himself, just so Fin couldn't take her. Tom thinks that Daniel did that sort of thing a lot.
Kylie's example of Daniel's vindictiveness continues to show that Daniel wasn't necessarily a nice person; he had a cruel streak and sought to hurt others for his own pleasure. By vocalizing this, both Kylie and Tom will be able to better understand Daniel's role in the family.
Themes
Family Theme Icon
Friendship and Teamwork Theme Icon
Kylie continues that when Fin told her about the fight with Daniel, she reminded him of the Year Nine dance debacle and insisted that Daniel shouldn't get his way. She says that the day before the accident, when Aunty Kath was out, she suggested Fin invite Claire over and said she'd keep watch. Fin and Claire snuggled and kissed, and Claire decided to break up with Daniel. Kylie cries that she feels like the entire thing was her fault.
To an outside observer, Kylie's thoughts and actions make a great deal of logical sense—Claire was afraid of Daniel and needed a way out of the relationship, while Fin was a much better match. However, it's also worth keeping in mind that whatever Kylie did, she didn't force the fight or Fin to get in the car—her guilt is, to a degree, unfounded.
Themes
Family Theme Icon
Friendship and Teamwork Theme Icon
Debt and Redemption Theme Icon
Tom admits that on the night of the accident, he told Daniel he was a jerk and walked away. He says he knew Daniel was upset and drunk, but he hated him right then and didn't stop him from driving. Tom says that he's not even sure now if he could've done anything. He admits that one of the last things he said to Daniel was, "you're going down."
With this, Tom begins to show that he understands that in a number of ways, all the members of his family are partially responsible for what happened that night. This shows Tom taking responsibility—a sign of maturity—and recognizing the intricacies of his family.
Themes
Family Theme Icon
Identity and Independence Theme Icon
Debt and Redemption Theme Icon
Get the entire The Story of Tom Brennan LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Story of Tom Brennan PDF
Slowly, Tom says that Daniel is different now. Then, he drank a lot and was hung over all the time, as were Luke and Owen. Tom says he knew things were bad, but he's only recently realized that St. John's was basically playing with twelve players instead of fifteen, and Fin was doing most of the work. The young players were scared, nobody was having fun, and winning the last match was a total fluke.
This realization can be traced directly to Tom's experience at footy camp and his newfound understanding of the importance of teamwork. He understands now that the team couldn't function with only twelve members, just as the Brennan family couldn't function with Daniel so out of control.
Themes
Family Theme Icon
Friendship and Teamwork Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Tom says that Dad was under intense pressure, and Mum and Dad knew they couldn't control Daniel. Tom wonders if Daniel just needed to fall this far. Tom suggests that Kylie go see him, and she asks why Tom seems to understand more and feel better than she does. Tom assures her she'll feel better soon and asks her what she's going to do about her hair. He takes the scissors and does his best to even it out.
When Tom fixes Kylie's hair, it's one way for them to begin to repair their relationship, as letting Tom cut her hair is a major leap of faith for Kylie. Note too that Tom also acknowledges their parents' role in the accident—again, demonstrating an understanding that his whole family is responsible.
Themes
Family Theme Icon
Debt and Redemption Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Brendan asks Tom to do some work around the sheds to earn the trip to Nepal. Tom can barely believe he's going and is getting more excited by the day. Some days Chrissy comes by to drop things off for Jonny and then she and Tom talk. Tom feels as though he can be himself around her, and he loves her laugh. One afternoon, Jonny says with a meaningful look that Chrissy still isn't seeing anyone. After Jonny leaves, Brendan asks Tom if they can talk. Tom panics; he wonders if Jonny is actually a scarily possessive brother.
When Tom feels as though he can be himself around Chrissy, it suggests that Chrissy will be one of the major forces in Tom's quest to find himself and discover his identity separate from Daniel's. Tom implies that he hasn't had a girlfriend before and it's possible that if he'd expressed interest, Daniel would've taken her; this means that this is all new territory for him and will help him come of age.
Themes
Family Theme Icon
Identity and Independence Theme Icon
Brendan says he wants to talk about what Chrissy said at dinner the other week. Tom thinks this conversation will absolutely be a warning to not go near Chrissy, especially when Brendan says that Jonny can get emotional. Brendan confirms that Tom is aware that he and Jonny are together. Tom breathes a sigh of relief to be talking about Brendan's sexuality, not Jonny being violently possessive. Brendan remarks that they always talk about Daniel when they run instead of themselves, but Tom tells him to forget it. Brendan says that he just wants to have it in the open since they're going to travel together. Later, Tom thinks that he's never seen Brendan as anything more than an uncle, but now, Brendan wants Tom to truly see him. Tom thinks that Daniel probably sees Brendan this way too.
The crushing anxiety and fear that Tom feels about Jonny makes it clear that even though Tom is doing much better, he's still ruled by fear of others and specifically, of others' violence or unkindness. This reminds the reader that for Tom, he'll have to continually remind himself that the social structure at St. John's and between himself and Daniel wasn't healthy, and there are better and more meaningful ways to connect with others.
Themes
Friendship and Teamwork Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Rory comes over that weekend. He looks around, asks where everyone is, and says he always used to call Gran's place "Saint Margalette the Butcher's." Finally, Tom says that his family members are either visiting Fin or Daniel. They discuss Kylie's haircut and then play a video game. In a break, Rory brings up the match next weekend with St. John's. Tom is dreading it; he knows he'll need to talk to Matt before the game. He tells Rory that some of the guys are still his friends, but he thinks that he's not sure if that's true anymore. More than anything, Tom is scared that the game will push him back into the dark hole.
The fact that Rory also joked about the name of Gran's property keeps Tom from recognizing yet that Gran finds community with her saints that she doesn't find anywhere else. Tom's ability to wonder if some of the St. John's guys aren't actually friends anymore shows that he's come to the conclusion that teamwork is important, which in turn makes him question whether he actually had relationships with his old teammates.
Themes
Friendship and Teamwork Theme Icon
Identity and Independence Theme Icon
Mum, Kylie, and Tom make dinner a few days later. It's the first time Mum has cooked in ages, so Kylie and Tom humor her when she explains her methods to them. Tom wonders if he's more like Mum than he realizes, as he thinks that going back to bed and not coming out sounds like a reasonable plan. To keep his mind off of the game with St. John's, Tom goes to Brendan's cabin to research Nepal. Tom knocks and lets himself in. Brendan doesn't see Tom. He's sitting on the couch, drinking gin and looking at pictures of Daniel. Brendan staggers to the stereo and restarts his music: the song "Daniel" by Elton John. He's crying and mouthing the lyrics. Tom slowly backs out.
By witnessing Brendan's private grief, Tom is able to see again that his family is grieving still and is healing at very different rates. This also helps Tom to see Brendan as an individual in his own right, not just as the calm and collected pillar of support that Brendan has been for the Brennan family since the accident. Brendan looks much more like Dad here; he must grieve in private so that he doesn't let others down.
Themes
Family Theme Icon
Debt and Redemption Theme Icon