This Boy’s Life

This Boy’s Life Chapter 15 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Rosemary, meanwhile, is excelling in the rifle club and having a grand time, making all kinds of friends and winning shooting matches frequently. Dwight is a member of the club too, but he never wins any matches. He buys several guns, claiming that each one is malfunctioning.
Dwight is so desperate to come off as successful and enviable that he blames his failure in shooting on the equipment rather than acknowledging his own lack of expertise.
Themes
Storytelling and Escapism Theme Icon
When there are shooting matches in other towns, Dwight makes Jack and Pearl come along with him and Rosemary. After each match Rosemary wins, Dwight becomes sullen and cruel, and on the drive back he berates, teases, and verbally abuses Rosemary. He always stops off at the tavern, goes inside, and drinks. Sometimes, Rosemary joins him.
Dwight is a cruel partner to Rosemary; rather than taking happiness from her achievements, he sees any measure of success she attains as a direct threat to his masculinity and his ability to control her.
Themes
Abuse Theme Icon
During this period of time, Jack is a self-described liar, constantly trying on different versions of himself. He also becomes a thief, with a goal of saving up enough money to run away—he will do anything it takes to “get clear of Dwight.” He even fantasizes about killing the man, and sometimes, when he can hear Dwight and his mother fighting in the next room, he takes out his Winchester and assembles it. Rosemary is not the only one subject to Dwight’s violent taunts—he often turns on Jack, too, but Jack feels immune to Dwight’s complaints against him. One by one, the slights give Jack a “definition” of himself, as he begins to define himself “by opposition to [Dwight.]”
As a result of the anxiety and misery at home, Jack begins resorting to unsavory behavior and escapist fantasies. Even in the darkest of times, though, Jack takes solace in his hatred of Dwight—he realizes that, going forward, he needs to always define himself by his opposition to Dwight, and undertake any small acts of resistance he can, both for his mother’s sake and his own.
Themes
Storytelling and Escapism Theme Icon
Identity and Performance Theme Icon
Abuse Theme Icon
One evening, after Rosemary wins a rifle match and she and Dwight go into the tavern to drink, Pearl and Jack are left alone in the car and try to come up with ways to entertain themselves. They sing along to the radio and play games until Dwight and Rosemary come out of the tavern—Jack thinks his mother no longer looks like a “winner.” Dwight gets into the car and starts it up, but Rosemary refuses to let him drive. After a time, she relents and gets in. As they drive the twisting road home, with Dwight driving fast and reckless, Pearl, Jack, and Rosemary sit helpless in the car while Dwight laughs and laughs every time he nearly runs off the road.
Any time Rosemary has any happiness or success that she’s won on her own, Dwight debases her until all of the light is sucked out of her, leaving her feeling ashamed and embarrassed of her own triumphs and agency. Again, the twisting road and Dwight’s drunken driving along it are metaphors for the crazed, twisted path down which he is taking his “family.”
Themes
Abuse Theme Icon
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