This Boy’s Life

This Boy’s Life Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The week after Thanksgiving, Jack tells Taylor and Silver a story about how he participated in the turkey shoot and blew the “fucking head” right off a huge turkey. His friends call his bluff and accuse him of lying before bursting out in peals of laughter. Jack takes out his hair comb and writes the words “FUCK YOU” on the wall of the bathroom, which has been freshly painted over the holiday. He then throws his comb in the garbage and leaves the bathroom.
Jack retreats into storytelling and escapism in the wake of his trip to Chinook, longing to paint a different picture of what really happened there to his friends and avoid all of the strangeness and disappointment he encountered.
Themes
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That day after lunch, the vice-principal, having found the graffiti, goes around to each classroom and tells each student in the school that they will not stop their investigation of who wrote the obscenity until they find the culprit. Jack becomes anxious and goes to the nurse with a stomachache later that afternoon. The vice-principal comes to fetch him from the nurse’s office and drags him out by his ear, telling Jack that his mother is on the way to school.
Though Jack drew the graffiti, when he is in danger of being caught, his tough-guy act comes falling down and he becomes vulnerable, weak, and anxious.
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Rosemary arrives and, having spoken with the school nurse, asks the vice-principal how he could have ripped Jack out of the infirmary in such a cruel manner. The vice-principal begins telling Rosemary of Jack’s transgression—to which Jack has still not admitted guilt—but his mother defends him, promising the vice-principal that her son never lies. The vice-principal calls in Taylor and Silver, who each corroborate the story that Jack scrawled the graffiti into the wall with his comb. When they leave, Jack and Rosemary insist that the other boys are lying, and Rosemary demands to see the principal.
Rosemary is staunch in her belief—or simply her denial—that Jack cannot be responsible for the graffiti. This says a lot about what “persona” or pose Jack presents to his mother at home, and how different it is from the one he affects at school with his ne’er-do-well friends.
Themes
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The principal, unsure of how to handle the situation, tries to give Jack a suspension, but Rosemary argues with this punishment, and the principal agrees to let Jack off the hook just this once. Even after leaving the principal’s office with his mother, cleared of any punishment, Jack still feels cramps in his stomach. Rosemary takes Jack home, where Marian questions why the two of them are home so early. Rosemary relays the whole thing to Marian, and at the end of her story, Marian asks Jack to leave the two women alone.
Despite having gotten out of trouble in school, Jack’s stomach cramps don’t subside; he’s still miserably guilty over what he’s done, and now has the added guilt of realizing that his mother defended him so fiercely when he did not deserve to be.
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Jack listens from the other room as Marian tells Rosemary all about what a bad kid Jack is. He hears his mother trying to stick up for him, but Marian has too much dirt on him, and rather than listening to his mother’s pitying protestations, Jack goes upstairs. After a while, Rosemary comes up, too, and takes a long bath. Jack is expecting a talking-to when she comes out, but after she’s done, she simply reads a book, fixes dinner, and goes to bed. Even after the lights are out, Jack cannot stop coming up with answers the questions he believes his mother will ask him in the morning.
Rosemary, having been filled in on all of the bad stuff Jack’s been getting up to, barely reacts at all. It seems as if she would rather go about her evening and continue to live in denial about the different personas Jack is adopting at home and at school.
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That weekend, Dwight comes to visit. After he leaves, Rosemary tells Jack that Dwight has made a proposal, which she feels “bound to consider.” Dwight has suggested that after Christmas, Jack move up to Chinook to live with him and his children and attend their school. If things work out and everyone gets along, Rosemary will quit her job, accept Dwight’s offer of marriage, and move up, too. As Rosemary outlines this plan, she speaks as if she sees in the plan some sort of “duty.” Jack feels he has no choice but to give his mother his approval and agree to the idea. 
The feeling of inevitability and pressure that Jack feels when his mother brings up going to live with Dwight shows that because Jack is so uncertain about who he is or what he wants, he allows the small measure of agency he has in his own life to be erased, striking whichever pose and agreeing to whichever arrangement makes him most agreeable in his mother’s eyes.
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