This Boy’s Life

Arthur Gayle Character Analysis

One of Jack’s friends at school. A “sissy” who is often picked on by the other boys, he is one of the “uncoolest” boys in school, and yet Jack feels himself pulled towards Arthur by the idea that they “recognize” each other. Jack and Arthur share active fantasy lives and trade unbelievable lies about their family lineages and wild fantasies about what they’ll accomplish in their lives. They both believe that the real lies are “told by [their] present unworthy circumstances,” and bond over this feeling of being out of place.

Arthur Gayle Quotes in This Boy’s Life

The This Boy’s Life quotes below are all either spoken by Arthur Gayle or refer to Arthur Gayle. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Storytelling and Escapism Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Grove Press edition of This Boy’s Life published in 1989.
Chapter 18 Quotes

Arthur's disappointment was more combative. He refused to accept as final the proposition that Cal and Mrs. Gayle were his real parents. He told me, and I contrived to believe, that he was adopted, and that his real family was descended from Scottish liege men who had followed Bonnie Prince Charlie into exile in France. I read the same novels Arthur read, but managed not to notice the correspondences between their plots and his. And Arthur in tum did not question the stories I told him. I told him that my family was descended from Prussian aristocrats--"Junkers," I said, pronouncing the word with pedantic accuracy—whose estates had been seized after the war. I got the idea for this narrative from a book called The Prussians. It was full of pictures of Crusaders, kings, castles, splendid hussars riding to the attack at Waterloo, cold-eyed Von Richthofen standing beside his triplane.

Arthur was a great storyteller. He talked himself into reveries where every word rang with truth. He repeated ancient conversations. He rendered the creak of oars in their oarlocks. He spoke in the honest brogue of the crofter, the despicable whine of the traitor. In Arthur's voice the mist rose above the loch and the pipes skirled; bold deeds were done, high words of troth plighted, and I believed them all.

I was his perfect witness and he was mine. We listened without objection to stories of usurped nobility that grew in preposterous intricacy with every telling. But we did not feel as if anything we said was a lie. We both believed that the real lie was told by our present unworthy circumstances.

Related Characters: Jack / Tobias (speaker), Arthur Gayle
Page Number: 158
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 23 Quotes

We had been close. Whatever it is that makes closeness possible between people also puts them in the way of hard feelings if that closeness ends. Arthur and I were moving apart, and had been ever since we started high school. Arthur was trying to be a citizen. He stayed out of trouble and earned high grades. He played bass guitar with the Deltones, a pretty good band for which I had once tried out as drummer and been haughtily dismissed. The guys he ran around with at Concrete were all straight-arrows and strivers, what few of them there were in our class. He even had a girlfriend. And yet, knowing him as I did, I saw all this respectability as a performance, and a strained performance at that.

Related Characters: Jack / Tobias (speaker), Arthur Gayle
Page Number: 217
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

After I got up [Arthur] rushed me, and without calculation I sidestepped and threw him an uppercut. It stopped him cold. He just stood there, shaking his head. I hit him again and the bell rang.

I caught him with that uppercut twice more during the final round, but neither of them rocked him like that first one. That first one was a beaut. I launched it from my toes and put everything I had into it, and it shivered his timbers. I could feel it travel through him in one pure line. I could feel it hurt him. And when it landed, and my old friend's head snapped back so terribly, I felt a surge of pride and connection; connection not to him but to Dwight. I was distinctly aware of Dwight in that bellowing mass all around me. I could feel his exultation at the blow I'd struck, feel his own pride in it, see him smiling down at me with recognition, and pleasure, and something like love.

Related Characters: Jack / Tobias (speaker), Dwight, Arthur Gayle
Page Number: 221
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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Arthur Gayle Character Timeline in This Boy’s Life

The timeline below shows where the character Arthur Gayle appears in This Boy’s Life. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 12
Identity and Performance Theme Icon
Jack meets a new boy who lives in the village of Chinook—Arthur Gayle is the “uncoolest boy in the sixth grade.” Arthur is a sissy—his movements and... (full context)
Identity and Performance Theme Icon
Abuse Theme Icon
One spring day, Arthur approaches Jack in the street out front of his house and teases him for his... (full context)
Identity and Performance Theme Icon
Abuse Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
...of the fight. Jack exaggerates, and Dwight delights in hearing about Jack sticking it to Arthur Gayle. That night at dinner, Dwight tells everyone his own stories of violent schoolyard fights... (full context)
Identity and Performance Theme Icon
One afternoon that summer, Jack runs into Arthur on the street during his paper route. They approach each other nervously—they have not spoken... (full context)
Chapter 18
Storytelling and Escapism Theme Icon
Abuse Theme Icon
...with the other Scoutmasters, and he will have time to slip away. Jack has told Arthur about his plan, and after Arthur begged to join, he reluctantly agreed to take Arthur... (full context)
Storytelling and Escapism Theme Icon
Abuse Theme Icon
Arthur’s family life is not violent like Jack’s, but he’s nevertheless dissatisfied with his parents. Arthur... (full context)
Identity and Performance Theme Icon
Abuse Theme Icon
As Arthur and Jack have grown closer, they’ve spent more and more time together, sleeping over at... (full context)
Storytelling and Escapism Theme Icon
...Scout uniform as he makes his way up to Alaska. During the Gathering he and Arthur stay clear of one another, participating in their separate events. Jack finds himself transfixed by... (full context)
Storytelling and Escapism Theme Icon
Abuse Theme Icon
...that Dwight will be drunk, and doesn’t want to be alone with him. He begs Arthur to drive back with them, but Arthur won’t talk to him. Jack tries to give... (full context)
Chapter 22
Storytelling and Escapism Theme Icon
Identity and Performance Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Arthur Gayle hates shop and has managed to negotiate his way out of the class by... (full context)
Chapter 23
Abuse Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Arthur and Jack have been getting into more and more verbal and physical fights at school.... (full context)
Identity and Performance Theme Icon
In reality, the two boys have grown apart; Arthur gets good grades and even has a steady girlfriend, while Jack gets into trouble and... (full context)
Identity and Performance Theme Icon
Abuse Theme Icon
...of all) Dwight, have showed him in the weeks leading up to it, Jack strikes Arthur with a swift, hard uppercut, stunning his friend. Jack can feel the blow hurt Arthur;... (full context)