This Boy’s Life

This Boy’s Life Chapter 25 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Jack is in shop class, working at the table saw when he feels a sharp pinch—he looks down and sees that the ring finger on his left hand is spouting blood. He has severed part of it at the last joint. He faints, and his teacher takes him to the doctor, who, after assessing the finger, brings him to the hospital in Mount Vernon for surgery. He goes under the knife that very afternoon and awakes the next morning in the hospital, where he stays for almost a week while his doctor observes him to make sure his finger doesn’t get infected.
Jack’s accident makes him more vulnerable, at a time when he was just beginning to feel in control of his life and circumstances and in reach of a dream of his.
Themes
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By the time Jack gets home he is addicted to morphine, which his nurses gave him freely as his pain was so bad. Back at home, the pain tablets his doctor has prescribed him do almost nothing for his pain, and he is on top of everything else experiencing the pain of withdrawing from morphine. Since he doesn’t know what’s happening to him, he wonders if his life is going to be one unending marathon of pain.
Jack continues to be weakened by his injury, and convinced—more than ever—that his fantasies of escapism are untenable and unreachable.
Themes
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Seeking to find a way to numb the pain, Jack steals some of Dwight’s whisky; he can barely swallow it down, though, and adds some water to the bottle before replacing it. A couple of days later, Dwight asks Jack if he watered down the whisky. When Jack, emboldened by his pain, answers that he’s “not the drinker in this house,” Dwight pushes Jack and knocks him off his feet. As Jack falls, he puts his hands out behind him—and lands on his bad finger. Pain rips through him and he thrashes on the floor, barely conscious. When he comes to his senses, he is sitting on the couch drenched in sweat. Rosemary comforts Jack and tells him that it’s “all over;” she promises Jack that they are getting out at last.
This final and climactic encounter with Dwight is rendered in hazy language and spare detail. It is almost as if the pain Dwight inflicted on him in this moment blotted out everything surrounding it. Jack is laid bare by this level of pain—the abuse, combined with his injury, combined with the fear that he will be stuck forever in this cycle of violence, misery, and abuse all crowd his mind and cause him to briefly lose consciousness as his body is wracked by pain.
Themes
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Abuse Theme Icon
Rosemary talks to Chuck Bolger’s parents, and they agree to take Jack in for a few months until the end of the school year. Rosemary, in the meantime, plans to look for work in Seattle, in hopes of moving Jack down there when she’s settled. Though Chuck’s father, Mr. Bolger, believes that Jack is a wild child, he is a religious man and does not turn down Jack’s request for “asylum.” He makes Jack promise that he will help out at the store, go to church each week, and will refrain from smoking, drinking, and swearing in the house. Jack agrees to the conditions.
In the wake of his climactic final encounter with Dwight, Jack is offered the chance at what he has wanted for so long—escape—as well as the opportunity to turn over a new leaf and live under the influence of a positive male role model for the first time in his life.
Themes
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Abuse Theme Icon
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On the day that Chuck comes to collect Jack from Chinook, Dwight takes Jack aside and says he wants to talk to him. Jack, though, simply shakes his head and walks away, getting into Chuck’s car. Dwight comes over to the window and sticks his hand out for Jack to shake. Jack is helpless to stop himself from returning the handshake, though he and Dwight hate each other “so much that other feelings [don’t] get enough light.” As Chuck drives Jack away, he passes Jack a bottle of liquor; Chuck himself sips from the bottle as they make their way to Chuck’s house.
Jack’s hatred of Dwight, intense and inescapable, nevertheless is inextricably intertwined with the conditioning and control Dwight has exerted over the boy for years. Jack cannot stop himself from bending to Dwight’s will, and kowtowing before him even in the face of all the man has done to him.
Themes
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Looking back now on his time in Chinook, the older Tobias reflects on how his hatred of Dwight—and Dwight’s hatred of him—“disfigured” him and ruined his childhood. Now, when he thinks of Chinook, he has to struggle to see the faces of his friends and the rooms of his home and school. The only thing that remains clear is Dwight’s face and voice. Now, when Tobias gets angry at his own children, he hears Dwight’s anger in his voice, and becomes frightened.
Despite the overwhelming badness of Dwight’s influence over him, the older Tobias finds himself still unable to unlearn some of the ways in which Dwight “educated” him throughout his youth by abusing and controlling him.
Themes
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Abuse Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon