The Story of Tom Brennan

by

J. C. Burke

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The Story of Tom Brennan: Chapter Ten Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Dad wakes Tom up early on Saturday morning and cooks a big breakfast. Tom is excited and nervous to see Daniel; it'll be the first time in six weeks. Mum shuffles into the kitchen, sits down next to Tom, and begins to rub his arm. Tom fixates on Mum's awful breath and yellow teeth as she chats nervously about how Tom should tell Daniel happy things. Finally, Tom blurts out that he made the rugby team. Mum seems nervous to learn that she never said anything about it, and she scratches her face and continues to rub Tom's arm while continuing to say that Tom was a sure thing for the team. Finally, Brendan insists it's time to go. Tom stiffens as Mum hugs him and thinks that her entire body stinks.
Mum's behavior here illustrates just how far she's sinking into her depression and her pain, and exactly what the consequences are for Tom when she does that. Tom's fixation on Mum's slipping hygiene and appearance shows again that this is one of the most profound losses brought on by the accident, as far as he's concerned. This in turn shows why Tom feels so unmoored: his family as he knows it is no longer the supportive group he came to rely on.
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In the truck to the Westleigh Detention Center, Brendan laments that he can't do anything for Mum—she refuses help. When Brendan suggests that Tom talk to her, Tom can only say that Mum smells and her teeth are disgusting. Tom flashes on a memory of Mum in a bikini from a year ago and thinks he doesn't recognize the woman at Gran's house. Tom refuses to actually talk, and Brendan sarcastically tells Tom to stay silent, since talking might hurt.
The assessment that Mum is refusing help suggests that she's doing this to herself, which begins to draw similarities between her and Daniel (since Tom says at several points that Daniel brought all of this upon himself with his poor choices). This shows another way in which Tom's family isn't actually as strong and connected as he once thought.
Themes
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After a while, Brendan comments that Tom hasn't seen Daniel in a while. He says that Daniel seems to look forward to Tom's visits the most and that Daniel is really down. Brendan tells Tom that if he needs to talk, he's always around, but Tom brushes him off. He feels as though he needs to preserve his strength for the visit with Daniel, as he's not sure what exactly he's going to find.
When Brendan attempts to talk to Tom, it offers Tom an outlet to talk to another family member. Tom's unwillingness to talk to Brendan specifically shows that he's not yet willing to expand his family and lean on others; he's too fixated on hoping Mum and Daniel will be better.
Themes
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Tom thinks the prison feels sticky and disgusting when he and Brendan get in line for security. He can't help but think that he and Brendan aren't like everyone else here—they wouldn't try to smuggle anything to Daniel. Tom watches an old lady make a fuss about a male guard attempting to roughly search her. As he stands for the metal detector, Tom wishes he could tell the guards that he's just here to see Daniel, "the one who doesn't belong here," but he understands that in reality, everyone in the jail is somehow innocent. Tom knows that Daniel isn't really innocent either; he's just not a criminal.
When Tom expresses the belief that Daniel isn't a criminal but also isn't innocent, it shows that Tom is beginning to grow up and develop a more nuanced grasp of the dynamics at play in his family and the world at large. His belief that Daniel doesn't belong in jail also suggests that Tom believes there should be another way for Daniel to atone for what he did, though he doesn't ever offer any alternatives, leaving jail as the one way that Daniel can redeem himself.
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Tom and Brendan sit in the waiting room and try not to catch anyone else's eye. Tom watches a mother and two children that he recognizes from his last visit. The older child, a toddler, has mosquito bites all over her legs. The bites are scabby and gross, and the child climbs over chairs as her mother tells her not to. Suddenly, the child knocks over a can of Coke. Her mother slaps her and starts to clean up the mess, and the old lady who made the fuss about being searched gets down to help. Tom watches the old lady comfort the young mother and wonders if he'll ever get used to coming here.
The kindness of the old lady suggests that while Tom may not be ready to realize it, there is a community available to him in the families of other inmates. Tom may see these other families as fundamentally different from his own, but it's clear from the behavior of the others in the waiting room that this is just as difficult for them as it is for Tom. This begins to show that if Tom is willing to look, he'll be able to find friends.
Themes
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Brendan and Tom line up with other visitors and Brendan snags a table near the wall in the visiting room. They watch the prisoners file in in white overalls and Brendan waves his arms when he sees Daniel. Tom barely recognizes him and a lump rises in his throat. He realizes that Daniel and Mum look as though they're both struggling with the same depression and unwillingness to live. Tom struggles to make small talk and tell Daniel how Mum is. Daniel's voice cracks as he says he might be moved to the crisis center to participate in a peer support program, and Tom talks about making half-back for the Bennie's rugby team.
The similarities Tom notices between Mum and Daniel reinforce that Daniel is still a part of the family in fundamental ways, even if he's physically removed from them now. When Daniel mentions the peer support program, it begins to offer another avenue through which Daniel can begin to move forward. It's worth noting just how terrible Daniel looks now, before beginning the support program—it suggests he's not getting better or moving forward where he is.
Themes
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After a few minutes of silence, Daniel starts to tremble and tells Tom that he's sorry he had to leave Mumbilli. Daniel bangs his head on the table and says he messed everything up; Tom tries desperately to make Daniel stop. Brendan cushions Daniel's head and assures him that he'll get through his time in jail. Tom remembers Brendan using the same voice to comfort Mum right after the accident. In a panicked voice, Daniel insists that nobody will want anything to do with him when he gets out, and he asks Tom if Tom hates him. Tom can barely breathe, but he says that they're brothers.
Notice that Daniel's fears about life after jail closely mirror Tom's fears about his new life in Coghill. Both brothers fear what other people will think of them and are moving through the world assuming that others will hate and ostracize them. This shows that despite the legend of the Brennan brothers and Tom and Daniel's closeness, both boys are effectively acting as individuals and are unwilling to trust others.
Themes
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Daniel is quiet for a few minutes and then abruptly asks Tom who at Bennie's is playing five-eight. Tom is caught off guard, but answers that Rory is. He insists that Rory can't kick with both feet and for a moment, Daniel looks like his old self. Daniel asks Tom if he's going to teach Rory to kick and reminds him that Tom also used to not be able to kick with both feet. Tom insists that Rory is too old to learn.
Tom's unwillingness to say anything nice about Rory's ball-handling skills makes him look snooty about rugby when it doesn't involve Daniel. This offers another way in which Tom's identity is trapped with Daniel's, and suggests he'll need to let that go if he wants to move forward.
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A week after the visit, Daniel moves to the peer support facility and Tom starts running in the mornings with Brendan. Tom can barely make it up the ascent without vomiting, but Brendan makes sure that Tom keeps up by only offering information about Daniel if Tom is next to him. Brendan explains that the crisis center works more closely with inmates' families and helps inmates plan for the future. After the run, Brendan says that Daniel will be in the crisis center for a few months and it'll give him some space to breathe and deal with his guilt.
When Tom begins to run with Brendan, specifically up such a steep hill, it's a tangible first step in separating himself from Daniel and Daniel's dislike of hills. Further, the fact that Tom is running with Brendan (and that they're having meaningful conversations about Daniel) suggests that he's becoming more comfortable looking for help outside of his immediate family.
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Related Quotes
Brendan admits that there are times when he can't wrap his head around the idea of Daniel in jail. He reminisces that he never liked cars much, but Pa loved cars and taught Daniel to drive. Brendan shares a memory of hearing Pa squealing happily as he taught Daniel to drive, and thinking that he never had that kind of experience with his dad. Tom asks Brendan why he stayed in Coghill. Brendan admits that he never actually wanted to stay but after Pa died, it was an excuse to not leave. Brendan ends the conversation and Tom whistles as he heads back to the house. He wonders if Dad might be cooking a full breakfast.
Brendan's memories of Daniel and Pa's relationship reinforces the novel's growing implication that the Brennan family isn't actually as perfect as Tom would like to think, given that there's clear favoritism at play. However, Tom's positive feelings after having the conversation suggests that there's a great deal to gain simply by talking to someone and dissecting the ways in which the family isn't perfect. His renewed interest in food is also a major turn for the better.
Themes
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When Tom walks into the kitchen, Dad is sitting at the table with a grim look and Kylie looks ready to kill. She spits that she likely just flunked her science assignment and cuts Dad off when he tries to smooth things over. Kylie opens the fridge and shrieks that Tom ate her apple strudel. She then slams the fridge closed, points to a sign telling everyone to leave the strudel alone, and tells Tom that he's being a jerk because he's too caught up in his own dark world. Kylie's screaming intensifies as she makes fun of Tom for being so secretive about repeating Year Eleven. She insists that things could be worse—Tom could be Fin. Tom starts to fire back, but notices Aunty Kath outside the screen door. Kylie runs to Kath, hugs her, and starts to cry. Tom feels impossibly small.
Kylie's not entirely wrong; Tom is extremely caught up in his own world and is, at this point, uninterested in creating new relationships with his nuclear family. When set next to Tom's growing relationship with Brendan, it suggests that Tom will need to heal with help from outside his family before he'll truly be able to make things right with Kylie, Mum, and Dad. When Kylie calls Tom out on his secretiveness, it reinforces for Tom that he will need to let others in at some point in order to complete this process.
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