The Story of Tom Brennan

by

J. C. Burke

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The Story of Tom Brennan: Chapter Three Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The next morning is tense; it's Kylie and Tom's first day of school in Coghill. Tom kicks a ball around outside while Kylie spends hours on her hair. In the car, Tom pretends he's choking on the fumes from the product in her hair, which makes Kylie very angry. Tom doesn't stop until Kylie attracts Dad's ire by cursing. Dad has a thing about girls swearing, which is why he liked Daniel's girlfriend Claire so much—she never swore.
Teasing Kylie is pretty standard sibling fare, which shows that there are still ways in which the Brennan family is normal and untouched by the trauma. However, Tom's mention of Claire in relation to this suggests that he still views these normal things as being colored by whatever happened to Daniel in Mumbilli.
Themes
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Friendship and Teamwork Theme Icon
Identity and Independence Theme Icon
Dad pulls up at the side entrance of St. Benedict's and tries to give Kylie and Tom a pep talk, but his suggestion that this is a challenge from God makes Kylie even angrier. She throws herself out of the car. Tom follows her and looks back to see Dad leaning over the wheel, his head in his hands. He wishes he hadn't looked back as he follows signs to the office and steps in behind Kylie. As Kylie leaves the office, Tom notices that her bag hitched up her skirt, revealing her underwear. He tries to get her attention and when he finally does, he sees that she's crying. Tom lets her go, understanding that it's easier to keep it together when you don't have to talk about it.
When Dad invokes God, it shows that he's trying to take Gran's methods of handling stress and use it himself. Kylie's reaction to this suggests that she's not yet ready to embrace these changes to her family yet. Then, when Tom regrets looking at Dad and seeing him so upset, it suggests that much of Tom's fear is likely rooted in effectively losing both parents, given that Mum spends so much of her time in bed, not parenting.
Themes
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Tom is assigned Michael Harvey for homeroom. Tom is somewhat uncomfortable that Harvey apparently knows what happened with Daniel. Fortunately, Harvey introduces Tom quickly to the class and then tells him to sit next to Rory. Rory greets Tom and Tom thinks of the promise he made himself: that he'd only stay in Coghill until he finishes Year Twelve. He's not sure what he'll do next, but he knows he can't go back to Mumbilli for a while. Tom hopes that after Daniel's done his time, maybe they can go back.
Tom's phrasing about Daniel doing his time implies that Daniel is in jail. This introduces the idea that Daniel is trying to redeem himself for whatever crime he committed and make up for it, and Tom's sense of guilt and anguish suggests that he too is trying to make up for what happened, whatever that is.
Themes
Identity and Independence Theme Icon
Debt and Redemption Theme Icon
The bus home is crowded with kids from four schools. Tom is able to slip into a seat and check out girls. He notices several sexy girls and thinks that before, Daniel would've been able to get whichever girl he wanted. The only girl Daniel ever messed up with was Claire. Tom explains that in the lead up to the accident, Daniel had been having a rough time and unlike girls before her, Claire put up with it. Daniel would rage and then sulk, and Tom wondered if Mum and Dad were scared of him since they never tried to do anything about it.
The possibility that Mum and Dad were scared of Daniel and thus neglected to discipline him places some of the responsibility for whatever happened on their shoulders, not just on Daniel's. This shows that one's actions don't take place in a vacuum; whatever Daniel did is clearly affecting the rest of his family in profound ways, and it may not have just been his fault alone.
Themes
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Identity and Independence Theme Icon
Debt and Redemption Theme Icon
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Tom also knew that Daniel liked Claire more than he'd liked any other girls, which made him extremely possessive. This was the case in particular with their cousin Fin. Tom wonders if Daniel was so awful because he could see that Claire also liked Fin, not just the other way around. In the weeks before the accident, Fin had started to grow up and become more confident. His skills on the field began to make him look better than Daniel and Tom, and he looked even better since Daniel was often playing hungover.
The mention that Daniel was playing hungover, especially when combined with his possessiveness, suggests that Daniel was dealing with some major problems in Mumbilli that affected both the St. John's rugby team and the Brennan family as a whole, given Fin's involvement. Again, this reinforces that actions don't happen in a vacuum, especially in a small town.
Themes
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Friendship and Teamwork Theme Icon
Tom notes that he's spent hours dissecting the changes that took place before the accident, trying to figure out what exactly changed. Specifically, he wonders if things started to change before the party or during the party. Daniel had gotten too drunk and aggressive and in the days that followed, Mumbilli had started to whisper that Daniel was an accident waiting to happen.
The whispers in Mumbilli suggest that things did start to change before the party; Tom may just not have been able to see it given his proximity to Daniel and their relationship as brothers. This suggests that Tom's identity is very much wrapped up in Daniel's, and that robs Tom of perspective.
Themes
Identity and Independence Theme Icon
Because Gran's house is so far out of town, Tom and Kylie are the last off the bus and then have to walk ten minutes. Tom tries to ask Kylie about her day, but she won't engage with him. She says that he doesn't want to talk about what she wants to talk about (the accident) and asks Tom what teacher he got for homeroom. When Tom says he got Harvey, Kylie begins to cry and shouts that rugby has always saved him and Daniel. Tom explodes in anger, yelling that he's stuck in Coghill just like she is, and points out that rugby didn't save Daniel from jail. Kylie runs home, and Tom sits on the side of the road. Tom thinks there's no point in trying to talk about anything.
The decision not to talk to anyone about anything shows Tom attempting to wall himself off. At this point, this is a protective measure given that Tom doesn't trust anyone, and especially not his family. This reinforces the novel's assertion that for Tom, family isn't safe right now. This also implies that Tom may feel betrayed by Daniel in particular, given how close they were and how angry and upset Tom is about all of this now.
Themes
Family Theme Icon
Identity and Independence Theme Icon
Debt and Redemption Theme Icon
The night of the accident, Tom arrived at the scout hall late, as he had to convince Matt and Snorter that they should actually go. When they arrived, Daniel and Luke were already drunk, though Daniel was still happy. Tom went outside, where Snorter was telling everyone about his trail bike and two girls, including Nicole, were singing show tunes. Matt pointed to Claire, who was walking out of the hall looking like she was crying. Tom approached her and though Claire initially tried to brush him off, she told him that she broke up with Daniel. She rambled on, almost to herself, that she should've waited to break up with him, as he scares her when he's so drunk.
Claire's fear of Daniel casts an sinister light on whatever happened, as it begins to show that it wasn't just a benign accident. The fact that she's willing to talk to Tom and trust him with this information shows that, despite his closeness with his brother, Tom is likely someone trustworthy and also not angry, scary, or vindictive like Daniel. This starts to show the reader that Tom has an identity separate from Daniel, even if Tom might not see it that way.
Themes
Friendship and Teamwork Theme Icon
Identity and Independence Theme Icon
Tom watched Fin walk into the hall and Claire said that when Daniel doesn't get his way, he snaps. Tom assured Claire he wasn't mad at her, and Claire told Tom that Daniel said he was going to kill "him." From the hall, Tom heard shouting and Matt yelling for him. Tom and Claire ran into the hall to see a circle of people chanting, "fight," with Fin and Daniel in the middle. Daniel called Fin a weasel and yelled at Tom to not get involved. Finally, Daniel pushed Fin and shoved his way out of the circle.
This fight between Fin and Daniel reinforces for the reader and the bystanders that any team unity there might've been is no longer there. Though this isn't as important to Tom right now, this is important to keep in mind as Tom begins to play rugby at Bennie's, given that he continues to lean on nonexistent team camaraderie at St. John's.
Themes
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Tom followed Daniel outside, yelling that Daniel did this to himself by treating Claire horribly. Daniel slammed Tom against a pole as Fin and Luke tried to talk Daniel down. When Daniel finally let Tom go, Tom walked away towards home, yelling that Daniel deserves everything he gets and is going down. The party started to break up and a line of cars started down the dirt track, most of them stopping to heckle Tom on the way. When Claire passed Tom, she yelled that Fin was with Daniel. A minute later, Snorter and Matt pulled over next to Tom. They said that Fin, the only sober one, would likely take Daniel and Luke home. Snorter remembered he left his jacket at the hall, so he and Matt turned around and promised to pick Tom up on their way back through.
Tom's decision to stand up to Daniel and try to make him take responsibility for the fight shows that even though Tom may be somewhat afraid of Daniel and understand that Daniel isn't rational right now, Tom feels he has some power and sway to make his brother see sense. Claire, Matt, and Snorter's words to Tom about how everyone will get home safely shows that there is a larger sense of community in Mumbilli; the teens do care for each other's safety, regardless of Daniel's anger.
Themes
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Friendship and Teamwork Theme Icon
Tom enters Gran's house and thinks it's dark and creepy. Dad is in the kitchen and cheerily invites Tom to come with him and Kylie to the pool. Dad says that Mum is "having a lie down," which Tom knows means that she's been in bed all day. Dad convinces Tom to go down to the sheds and talk to Brendan and then heads outside. Tom wanders down the hall and stands in Mum's bedroom door. The air is stale and Mum is nothing more than a pile of blankets. Tom whispers that school went okay.
When Tom again stands in Mum's bedroom door and only whispers, it shows that he desperately craves her love and attention. Her inability or unwillingness to give him any implies that her identity as a mother is likely compromised by whatever happened to Daniel, and her family is consequentially at risk of fracturing as well.
Themes
Friendship and Teamwork Theme Icon
Identity and Independence Theme Icon
Debt and Redemption Theme Icon
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