This Boy’s Life

This Boy’s Life Chapter 7 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
After a while, Marian, Kathy, and Rosemary decide to rent a house together. Rosemary finds a “scabrous eyesore” of a house in West Seattle; it needs a lot of fixing up, but she convinces Marian, Kathy, and even Jack that if they work together they can make it beautiful and comfortable. Soon after moving in, Kathy gives birth to a baby boy. While Kathy and Rosemary go off to work each day, Marian stays home keeping house. Jack runs around with his friends Taylor and Silver all afternoon and comes home just before Rosemary does each evening. He lies constantly to Marian about where he’s been, and though she can tell he’s lying, she knows she cannot control him.
Rosemary’s belief that their eyesore of a house can be fixed up and made into a dream home for them all reflects the novel’s theme of storytelling and escapism. Rosemary, poor and on her own, is forced to take an ugly house ill-equipped for her needs, but nonetheless struggles to convince herself that one day she’ll have everything she wants.
Themes
Storytelling and Escapism Theme Icon
Rosemary never disciplines Jack. Her father, a “great believer in the rod,” had spanked her every day of her childhood because he presumed that whether he knew about it or not, she’d done something wrong each and every day. Rosemary’s mother could not defend her against her brutal father, who left his mark on Rosemary’s psyche. The older Tobias observes that his mother always had a “strange docility” about her, and was almost paralyzed by “men of the tyrant breed.”
This passage reveals that dark past and childhood traumas allow—or even force—Rosemary to repeat the cycles of pain, subjugation, and self-effacement in her relationships with “men of the tyrant breed.”
Themes
Abuse Theme Icon
Jack begins getting into more and more trouble at school with his friends Taylor and Silver. The boys break some windows and get away with it; their perceived invincibility emboldens them, and soon they go around town smashing windows, streetlights, breaking into cars and setting off the emergency brakes, and leaving bags of excrement blazing on neighbors’ stoops. They steal from local stores, and Jack hoards his stolen goods like treasure, though once he sees them outside the bounds of the store they mostly lose their appeal.
All of the trouble Jack and his friends get into seems to only excite and enliven Jack in the moment. After all of the hullaballoo is over, he’s left with trinkets he doesn’t much care for and a sense of guilt which adds to his already insecure, poor self-image.
Themes
Identity and Performance Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
A few months into their new living situation, Kathy and Marian both receive offers of engagement from their beaus. They try to fix Rosemary up, too, but the many suitors they send her way aren’t right for her. They eventually fix her up with a man named Dwight—a short man with sad, restless eyes who always smells of gasoline. He dresses like a dandy, and Rosemary thinks he’s kind and considerate. Dwight, however, lives in a place called Chinook, a small town three hours north of Seattle, and has three children from a previous marriage. Jack is certain that his mother won’t “let herself get tangled up” in Dwight’s “mess” of a life.
Even though Dwight seems benign and even bumbling at first, Rosemary’s troubled romantic history clues both Jack and readers into the fact that something must be amiss if Rosemary is drawn to him. Jack’s instinct is to urge his mother to steer clear of Dwight, but he is just a child, and his opinions don’t hold water.
Themes
Identity and Performance Theme Icon
Abuse Theme Icon
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Dwight keeps coming to call on Rosemary, though, and pays her “puppyish, fawning” attention on their dates. Jack, from what he observes of Dwight’s interactions with his mother, feels Dwight is trying way too hard. Jack begins to loathe and pity Dwight, and he perfects an impression of the man, which he performs for his mother, Kathy, and Marian each time Dwight departs. Only Rosemary asks Jack to stop mimicking Dwight, whom she defends as a "very nice” man.
Jack, feeling threatened by Dwight both because the man is taking away the bulk of his mother’s attentions and affections and because Jack has seen the painful situations Rosemary has gotten into, mocks and ridicules Dwight, perhaps in hopes of getting his mother to move away from him, but all of Jack’s efforts are in vain.
Themes
Identity and Performance Theme Icon
Abuse Theme Icon