This Boy’s Life

This Boy’s Life Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
That year, Jack and Rosemary arrive in Chinook the day before Thanksgiving to spend the holiday with Dwight and his children. There are three of them—two girls and a boy. The youngest girl is pinch-faced and scrawny, with a strange bald spot on the back of her head; she is about Jack’s age, and she is so happy to see Rosemary that she immediately wraps her in an embrace. Dwight introduces his youngest daughter as Pearl. The elder daughter, Norma, is seventeen (and, in Jack’s eyes, “ripe and lovely”), while the oldest of the three, the boy Skipper, is thin and angular and uninterested in both Jack and Rosemary.
As Jack and Rosemary meet Dwight’s children, a whole new world opens up for them. The three children are all different, from the scrawny and over-affectionate Pearl to the disengaged Skipper, but what becomes clear right away is that Jack is going to have to adjust to competing with more than just Dwight for his mother’s affections.
Themes
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The house Dwight and his family live in is not really a house—it is a converted war barracks. After the meal, Rosemary and Dwight go out with friends while Norma, Pearl, Jack, and Skipper clean up and play Monopoly. After the game, Jack falls asleep; he wakes up when his mother comes home and climbs into the sofa bed with him. She asks him what he thinks of Dwight and his family; he replies that they’re “okay.” Rosemary confesses that she’s having a hard time deciding whether she should marry Dwight. She is doing well at work, and doesn’t really want to get married, even though she fears Jack needs a father. Jack tells Rosemary it’s perfectly all right with him if she doesn’t get married at all.
Jack has a good enough time with Norma, Pearl, and Skipper, but when push comes to shove, he still wants for things to go back to the way they were—his mother and him against the rest of the world.
Themes
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On Thanksgiving Day, after breakfast, Dwight packs everyone into the car and drives them all around, giving Rosemary and Jack a tour of Chinook—a company village owned by Seattle City Light. The nearest real town, forty miles away, is Concrete, where the three children go to school. As the children all take turns complaining about the long bus ride to school each day, Dwight yells at them fiercely for complaining.
Dwight’s short temper and hatred of being questioned begin to emerge in this passage when his children benignly whine about their long commute to school.
Themes
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Part of the fun of the trip to Chinook for Jack is the chance to participate in the rifle club’s turkey shoot. Dwight essentially bribed Jack into coming by telling him he could bring his rifle and participate. When they show up to the shoot, though, at noon on Thanksgiving, Jack is told that he can’t participate due to his age. Dwight insists he is as surprised as Jack, but Jack can tell that the man is lying. Rosemary, who is an NRA member, asks an official if she can shoot in Jack’s place and signs herself up. When it’s Dwight’s turn to shoot, he performs miserably; he blames his failures on Jack’s faulty rifle, but when Rosemary is up, she wins the whole competition.
Just like all of Rosemary’s other boyfriends and suitors, Dwight has lied to Jack about a “gift;” not only is Jack disappointed, but he realizes, perhaps, on a deeper level, that the cycle of abuse is starting up again. Rosemary, however, seems oblivious, and even excited. 
Themes
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Back at the house, their whole group enjoys a peaceful and calm Thanksgiving dinner; Rosemary is electrified by her win and tells stories about her and Jack’s past and their adventures together. Jack plays Chinese Checkers with Pearl, and the two of them have a grand time. The next morning, Dwight drives Rosemary and Jack back to Seattle. On the bridge leading out of Chinook, he stops the car to point out the salmon in the river below, who have come from the ocean to spawn and have already begun to die.
Even though the “family” has a nice, peaceful evening in which Jack gets along well with Pearl and at last seems excited about the idea of joining Dwight’s family, Dwight pulls a dark and manipulative move when he points out the dying salmon, who have come upriver to Chinook only to perish.
Themes
Identity and Performance Theme Icon
Abuse Theme Icon