The Story of Tom Brennan

by

J. C. Burke

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The Story of Tom Brennan: Chapter Two Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Tom decides that if forced to say something nice, he'd be able to say that the touch game will be good to get him running, which he hasn't done for a while. He goes downstairs to his room, which used to be Uncle Brendan's. It's dark and brown, so Tom nicknamed it "the cave" when he arrived. Because the only place for Tom to plug in his game console is the lounge room, where Gran hosts prayer groups, there's nothing for Tom to do except lie on his bed and stare at the painting of Saint Cecelia that Gran hung for him. Gran's house is covered in paintings of saints—Kylie's room has Saint Rose, while Mum and Dad have Saint Jane.
Though Tom doesn’t see it this way yet, it's possible to read Gran's saints as her own personal support team in much the same way that Tom goes on to rely on his rugby teammates. Again, this shows that Gran already understands the power of friendship and teamwork to help get her through difficult times, while Tom's disparaging comments about the Bennie's rugby team suggests that at this point, he cares more about winning than being a part of a supportive community.
Themes
Friendship and Teamwork Theme Icon
Kylie pokes her head into Tom's room to tell him it's time to get ready. She insists that the game will be fine for Tom since he gets to play, but she'll have to sit with "The Grandmother" and talk. Kylie spits that Mum isn't coming and suggests that maybe she should do what Mum does and refuse to come out of her room. She continues to moan about how awful lunch was and doesn't want to hear it when Tom suggests that Daniel might feel more stuck than they do. Kylie huffs out of the room and Tom plays with his socks. The socks have Daniel's name stitched into them, and Tom feels like there's no hope.
Giving Gran this nickname combined with the tone that the text implies shows that Kylie and Tom don't think highly of Gran at all—in fact, it seems as though they hardly see her as a legitimate part of the family. The fact that Tom is hanging on to Daniel's old socks suggests that he still feels connected to Daniel, even if Daniel isn't there—something that seems to make Tom feel even more alone.
Themes
Family Theme Icon
Identity and Independence Theme Icon
Uncle Brendan sticks his head in to check on Tom. Tom brushes off Brendan's attempts to make sure he's okay. More than anything, Tom is afraid that at the game, he's going to meet people who likely know more about him than he knows about them, and he's afraid that things won't be any different in Coghill than they were in Mumbilli. He passes Mum's room on the way out and sees her in bed, looking like nothing more than a lump under sheets. Tom tells her he's going out, but she doesn't answer.
Tom's fear makes it clear again that he's going through life right now as though he's a team of one: he's not willing to trust Brendan; Mum is uninvolved; and Kylie seems a poor ally. However, note that Tom is doing this because of a fear of whatever happened in Mumbilli. This suggests that what happened showed Tom that he couldn't rely on others to care about him.
Themes
Friendship and Teamwork Theme Icon
Identity and Independence Theme Icon
Debt and Redemption Theme Icon
In the truck on the way to the game, Kylie sits between Gran and Tom in the back. Tom can tell she's extremely angry. Dad and Brendan discuss a tractor they have to fix tomorrow. Tom explains that Dad used to work as a mechanic and a rugby coach in Mumbilli, while Mum helped run the cafeteria—the Brennan family nearly ran the entire town. He looks out the window at the main drag in Coghill, which is lined with fast food restaurants. He thinks that while Mumbilli only had a Kentucky Fried, it was one of the nice ones.
The many fast food restaurants imply that Coghill is much larger than Mumbilli was (later, Brendan says that Coghill has 30,000 more people than Mumbilli). This suggests that Tom's fear has to do with the small-town environment in Mumbilli, something that he also seems to think is superior given his assessment of differences in fast food options.
Themes
Friendship and Teamwork Theme Icon
Identity and Independence Theme Icon
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Brendan calls out the window to Shorty, a tall man meticulously picking lettuce off of his burger. Brendan introduces Shorty to Dad as Peter McGregor. Shorty greets Gran and then turns to Tom, whom he recognizes as a rugby player. Tom corrects Shorty that he played half-back, not five-eight, in the Wattle Shield premiership two years ago. Shorty is somewhat confused; he's convinced that Tom played five-eight. Tom is terrified. He knows that Shorty will certainly put two and two together and realize what happened in Mumbilli. Instead, Shorty just grins at Brendan and accuses him of keeping his talented nephew hidden.
Later, Tom will share that Daniel played five-eight; Shorty is getting Tom and Daniel mixed up here. Notice, however, that Shorty doesn't realize this and further, doesn't seem to care much. This suggests that many of Tom's fears are possibly unfounded and a result of his small-town upbringing in Mumbilli, where whatever happened appears to have been major news.
Themes
Friendship and Teamwork Theme Icon
Identity and Independence Theme Icon
Debt and Redemption Theme Icon
Going back in time, Tom explains that Saturday, August 27th had been "sudden death" for the St. John's rugby team. Winning that sudden death match meant that they'd be in the running to win the Wattle Shield for the third year in a row. Luke, the captain, paced, and Dad gave a surprisingly calm pep talk. He gave special instructions to Luke, Daniel, and Fin. St. John's won narrowly thanks to Fin. They were somewhat surprised to win, as they hadn't been playing well all season. Because they figured this game would be their last for the season, they'd booked the scout hall for a party that night. It did turn out to be the last game for some of them.
Notice that the St. John's team effectively signaled that they were giving up by booking the scout hall for an end-of-season party. This shows that they truly were playing poorly, despite Fin's heroics. This all begins to suggest that the St. John's team wasn't necessarily playing well together and had even given up on winning because of that. This starts to indicate that winning, good teamwork, and camaraderie are linked, regardless of what Tom says on the matter.
Themes
Friendship and Teamwork Theme Icon
Tom hasn't touched a ball since that game five months ago. He's shocked that everything at the Coghill field feels so familiar and grudgingly lets Brendan take him around and introduce him to the other guys. Tom feels like an outsider and makes no effort to remember names. Suddenly, he hears the others chanting "Jonny, Jonny." Jonny is huge and extremely handsome. He introduces himself to Tom and asks after Mum. Tom excuses himself and goes to find Dad. Dad introduces Tom to Michael Harvey, the rugby coach at Bennie's. He shakes Tom's hand enthusiastically and Tom feels exhausted already. Tom watches Gran boss a young man around as he sets up her chair while Kylie pretends not to see.
The strange and uncomfortable sense of familiarity that Tom feels indicates that he does in some ways believe that what he's experiencing was—or, in his mind, should have been—unique to rugby games in Mumbilli. Again, this begins to suggest that Tom feels extremely superior to the players here in Coghill and still very much groups himself with the Mumbilli players, even if those people turned out to not be true friends.
Themes
Friendship and Teamwork Theme Icon
Identity and Independence Theme Icon
Harvey calls everyone to the center of the field. He reminds them of the rules and then instructs everyone to split up based on who lives north or south of the river. Harvey calls out a young man named Marcus for taking the wrong side, but Marcus insists he just moved and his heart is still on the other side of the river. Marcus points to Tom and suggests that Tom could switch, but a guy named Rory stands up for Tom. Marcus angrily switches sides and Rory whispers to Tom that Marcus is a jerk, but harmless.
When Rory takes it upon himself to stand up for Tom and tell him about Marcus, it suggests that Rory understands that this is one of the best ways to make an outsider like Tom feel welcome and at home in this foreign environment. On the other hand, Marcus's suggestion that Tom switch reinforces that Tom is very much an outsider.
Themes
Friendship and Teamwork Theme Icon
When the game begins, Tom finds that running and playing feels natural. For the first time in months, he feels free. He handily evades Marcus and between him, Jonny, and Rory, their team wins easily. Tom participates in the celebrating afterwards, but he notes that the empty feeling is returning. Rory tells Tom he'll see him tomorrow, and Tom unwillingly remembers that life will indeed continue to go on, regardless of how he feels about it.
Tom's feeling that rugby feels normal and natural indicates that, regardless of his feelings on the matter, the game itself will be a major help in how Tom heals from trauma, adjusts to his new home, and moves towards adulthood. Being the one thing that makes him feel okay, it'll help him feel okay in other parts of his life.
Themes
Friendship and Teamwork Theme Icon
Identity and Independence Theme Icon