This Boy’s Life


Tobias Wolff

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This Boy’s Life: Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

One afternoon, Roy and Jack are home alone in the apartment. Roy asks Jack what he thinks about the idea of having a baby brother, and tells him that he and Rosemary are thinking of starting a family together. Jack doesn’t react much to the idea, responding numbly and in one-word answers. The next morning, Roy sets out on a fishing trip; Jack doesn’t know that it will be the last time he ever  sees the man.
Roy clearly wants to continue his relationship with Rosemary and cement their connection to one another; he wants to bring another life into the world as a way to entrap her, not because he loves her and wants to build a healthy life with her.
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When Jack comes home from school, Rosemary has almost all of their things packed. She asks Jack to make sure there’s nothing she’s forgotten in his room; he asks if they’re going somewhere, and she replies that they’re going to Seattle—without Roy. Jack retrieves his rifle; Rosemary says it can’t come with them, but Jack insists, and she adds it to their things. She voices her disappointment in the fact that the rifle means so much to Jack. Shortly thereafter, a cab pulls up and drives Rosemary and Jack through the rain to the bus station, where they board a bus bound for Seattle.
Though Rosemary doesn’t want to bring along the rifle—a symbolic token from Roy which stands for all he has “taught” Jack—she allows him to bring it anyways. This symbolizes Rosemary’s resignation to the fact that her mistakes affect Jack, too; she wants to deny the truth of this fact, but ultimately cannot.
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