This Boy’s Life

Dwight, Jack’s mother’s new beau in Seattle, appears at first to be a somewhat bumbling, odd man whose devotion to Rosemary is both wholesome and serious. When Rosemary has a hard time deciding whether or not she should marry Dwight, however, she sends Jack to live with him and his three children from a previous marriage—once Jack is alone with Dwight, the man’s cruelty surfaces, and his attempts to manipulate and control Jack through bullying and abuse begin. Dwight is the book’s primary antagonist; an insecure and stupid man, he seeks to control everyone around him because of his own inability to exact control over the lackluster, somewhat depressing circumstances of his own life. As Dwight’s abuse extends to Rosemary and takes on a disturbing psychological facet, Jack realizes that he must escape his stepfather’s house. Throughout his adolescence, Jack learns to define himself in opposition to Dwight, and seeks to rebel against his overbearing stepfather any chance he gets.

Dwight Quotes in This Boy’s Life

The This Boy’s Life quotes below are all either spoken by Dwight or refer to Dwight. 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 9 Quotes

I wanted to do what Dwight expected me to do, but I couldn't. I stood where I was and stared at the beaver. Dwight came up beside me. "That pelt's worth fifty dollars, bare minimum." He added, "Don't tell me you're

afraid of the damned thing."

"No sir."

"Then pick it up." He watched me. "It's dead, for Christ's sake. It's just meat. Are you afraid of hamburger? Look." He bent down and gripped the tail in one hand and lifted the beaver off the ground. He tried to make this appear effortless but I could see he was surprised and strained by the beaver's weight. A stream of blood ran out of its nose, then stopped. A few drops fell on Dwight's shoes before he jerked the body away. Holding the beaver in front of him with both hands, Dwight carried it to the open trunk and let go. It landed hard. "There," he said, and wiped his hands on his pant leg.

Related Characters: Jack / Tobias (speaker), Dwight (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Chestnuts and the Beaver
Page Number: 88
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Chapter 11 Quotes

Now I saw her only when Dwight agreed to drive me down with him. He usually had reasons for leaving me behind, the paper route or schoolwork or something I had done wrong that week. But he had to bring me sometimes, and then he never let me out of his sight. He stuck close by and acted jovial. He smiled at me and put his hand on my shoulder and made frequent reference to fun things we'd done together. And I played along. Watching myself with revulsion, aghast at my own falsity yet somehow helpless to stop it, I simpered back at him and laughed when he invited me to laugh and confirmed all his lying implications that we were pals and our life together a good one. Dwight did this whenever it suited his purpose, and I never let him down.

Related Characters: Jack / Tobias (speaker), Dwight, Rosemary
Page Number: 99-100
Explanation and Analysis:
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[The piano] was just a piece of furniture, so dark in all this whiteness that it seemed to be pulsing. You really couldn't look anywhere else.

I agreed that it stood out.

We went to work on it. Using fine bristles so our brush strokes wouldn't show, we painted the bench, the pedestal, the fluted columns that rose from the pedestal to the keyboard. We painted the carved scrollwork. We painted the elaborate inlaid picture above the keyboard, a picture of a girl with braided yellow hair leaning out of her gabled window to listen to a redbird on a branch. We painted the lustrous cabinet. We even painted the foot pedals. Finally, because the antique yellow of the ivory looked wrong to Dwight against the new white, we very carefully painted the keys, all except the black ones, of course.

Related Characters: Jack / Tobias (speaker), Dwight
Page Number: 99-100
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 13 Quotes

I also missed my father. My mother never complained to me about him, but sometimes Dwight would make sarcastic comments about Daddy Warbucks and lord High-and-Mighty. He meant to impugn my father for being rich and living far away and having nothing to do with me, but all these qualities, even the last, perhaps especially the last, made my father fascinating. He had the advantage always enjoyed by the inconstant parent, of not being there to be found imperfect. I could see him as I wanted to see him. I could give him sterling qualities and imagine good reasons, even romantic reasons, why he had taken no interest, why he had never written to me, why he seemed to have forgotten I existed. I made excuses for him long after I should have known better.

Related Characters: Jack / Tobias (speaker), Dwight, Mr. Wolff
Page Number: 121
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 17 Quotes

We climbed up into the attic and worked our way down to where I'd put the boxes. It was cramped and musty. From below I could hear faint voices singing. Dwight led the way, probing the darkness with a flashlight. When he found the boxes he stopped and held the beam on them. Mold covered the cardboard sides and rose from the tops of the boxes like dough swelling out of a breadpan. Its surface, dark and solid-looking, gullied and creased like cauliflower, glistened in the light. Dwight played the beam over the boxes, then turned it on the basin where the beaver, also forgotten these two years past, had been left to cure. Only a pulp remained. This too was covered with mold, but a different kind than the one that had gotten the chestnuts. This mold was white and transparent, a network of gossamer filaments that had flowered to a height of two feet or so above the basin. It was like cotton candy but more loosely spun. And as Dwight played the light over it I saw something strange. The mold had no features, of course, but its outline somehow suggested the shape of the beaver it had consumed: a vague cloud-picture of a beaver crouching in the air.

Related Characters: Jack / Tobias (speaker), Dwight
Related Symbols: The Chestnuts and the Beaver
Page Number: 153-154
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 23 Quotes

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:
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Dwight Character Timeline in This Boy’s Life

The timeline below shows where the character Dwight appears in This Boy’s Life. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 7
Identity and Performance Theme Icon
Abuse Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
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Dwight keeps coming to call on Rosemary, though, and pays her “puppyish, fawning” attention on their... (full context)
Chapter 8
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The house Dwight and his family live in is not really a house—it is a converted war barracks.... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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...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.... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 9
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That weekend, Dwight comes to visit. After he leaves, Rosemary tells Jack that Dwight has made a proposal,... (full context)
Chapter 10
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Dwight drives Jack up from Seattle to Chinook in a “sullen reverie,” barely speaking to Jack... (full context)
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At the last village before Chinook, Dwight stops off at a tavern. He brings a burger and fries out to the car... (full context)
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After Dwight emerges from the tavern, he drives home drunk the rest of the way. As he... (full context)
Chapter 11
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During his first few days in Chinook, Jack can tell that Dwight is studying him and sizing him up. Dwight calls Jack lazy and accuses him of... (full context)
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Dwight has filled several boxes with horse chestnuts, and charges Jack with husking and shucking them.... (full context)
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Dwight arranges for Jack to take on a paper route, which he completes every day after... (full context)
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Jack misses his mother, who, in the weeks since Christmas, has still refused to give Dwight a firm answer about marriage. She tells Dwight—and Jack—that she wants to be completely sure... (full context)
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...anything she needs to know about, but Jack always insists that everything’s fine. Each time Dwight drives Jack back up to Chinook, he always stops at the tavern and drinks. For... (full context)
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Once a week, Jack and Dwight go to Boy Scout meetings. Dwight, having been a “serious” scout at Jack’s age, signs... (full context)
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In March, Rosemary finally gives Dwight a date for when she’ll move up to Chinook. Dwight immediately begins renovating the house... (full context)
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...that all of his suffering is, in a way, “fated.” He feels compelled to accept Dwight’s home as his own, and to accept Dwight as his father, even though neither make... (full context)
Chapter 12
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...Jack take a shower and clean his cuts and bruises. Pearl urges Rosemary to tell Dwight about Jack’s fight—Rosemary exhaustedly suggests Pearl tell him herself. Rosemary and Dwight have not been... (full context)
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When Dwight comes home from work that evening, he comes straight to Jack’s door, and Jack worries... (full context)
Chapter 13
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...they share is painfully empty. In addition to missing Skipper, Jack also misses his father—though Dwight often makes snide comments about the man, Jack will not let anyone tarnish the image... (full context)
Chapter 14
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Jack joins the basketball team at school, and as such needs new sneakers. Dwight refuses to buy them for him, though, and chastises Jack for outgrowing his old shoes... (full context)
Chapter 15
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...and having a grand time, making all kinds of friends and winning shooting matches frequently. Dwight is a member of the club too, but he never wins any matches. He buys... (full context)
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When there are shooting matches in other towns, Dwight makes Jack and Pearl come along with him and Rosemary. After each match Rosemary wins,... (full context)
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...up enough money to run away—he will do anything it takes to “get clear of Dwight.” He even fantasizes about killing the man, and sometimes, when he can hear Dwight and... (full context)
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One evening, after Rosemary wins a rifle match and she and Dwight go into the tavern to drink, Pearl and Jack are left alone in the car... (full context)
Chapter 16
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...painting a “nightmare picture” of his and Rosemary’s lives in Chinook. He does accurately detail Dwight’s abuse—he exaggerates, getting carried away with his own story. At the end of the letter,... (full context)
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...to Paris by himself to live with their family for a year, while Rosemary leaves Dwight and finds work stateside. Rosemary asks Jack what he thinks about the plan, and he... (full context)
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They tell Dwight about the idea of Jack going to Paris, and Dwight is “all for [it.]” Pearl,... (full context)
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...name and give up who he is, but his mother insists the decision is his. Dwight, meanwhile, unleashes “a frenzy of coaxing and bullying and opinion-dispensing,” delighted, seemingly, at the thought... (full context)
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...after the letter, Jack announces at dinner one night that he’s not going to Paris. Dwight insists that Jack must go. When Jack says he doesn’t want to change his name,... (full context)
Chapter 17
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Dwight’s favorite thing to watch on TV is the Lawrence Welk show. He is a huge... (full context)
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Dwight gets excited about Norma’s impending visit, and decides to spray paint a Christmas tree white... (full context)
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...Welk show. When a group of singing sisters performs “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire,” Dwight nudges Jack and asks him to follow him. He takes Jack towards the attic and... (full context)
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Also rotting in the attic is the carcass of the beaver Dwight killed with his car; only a “pulp” covered with thin strings of mold remains. Dwight... (full context)
Chapter 18
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...door of his rustic cabin in the wilderness. He is planning to run away from Dwight in November, in Seattle, at the Scouts’ annual Gathering of the Tribes. He knows Dwight... (full context)
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...stands with the rest of his troop, waiting to be picked up. He knows that Dwight will be drunk, and doesn’t want to be alone with him. He begs Arthur to... (full context)
Chapter 19
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...in the utility rom. It growls as Jack approaches. Jack sneaks past it and tells Dwight, who is waiting in the other room. Dwight tells Jack that he has gotten the... (full context)
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Dwight and Jack take Champion out hunting at a gravel quarry where some skinny ducks are... (full context)
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...feel good, and Rosemary allows him to stay home sick for the day. After lunch, Dwight comes to Jack’s room and leans in the doorway. Dwight took Champion out with him... (full context)
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...begins killing neighborhood cats, and, after he mangles one in front of a little girl, Dwight is forced to take Champion out to the woods and shoot him. Jack knows what... (full context)
Chapter 20
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...and spends the night sleeping in the woods. The following morning when he returns home, Dwight and Rosemary ask him where he’s been. When he replies that he got drunk and... (full context)
Chapter 21
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...becoming an Eagle Scout. Though he has completed all of the requirements for the badge, Dwight refuses to send in Jack’s papers; Dwight doesn’t believe that Jack deserves to be an... (full context)
Chapter 22
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One afternoon, while Pearl and Jack are in the kitchen eating hot dogs, Dwight comes into the room and notices a jar of mustard in the garbage. He fishes... (full context)
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...Geoffrey picks up, Jack can barely speak. He at last manages to squeak out that Dwight been hitting and abusing him for years. Geoffrey is astonished and upset, and insists that... (full context)
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It’s not just a tough time for Jack—Rosemary, too, is also suffering at Dwight’s hands. Having returned from a fun jaunt campaigning for John F. Kennedy, she is stuck... (full context)
Chapter 23
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At the fight, goaded on by the support his friends and (unlikeliest of all) Dwight, have showed him in the weeks leading up to it, Jack strikes Arthur with a... (full context)
Chapter 25
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Seeking to find a way to numb the pain, Jack steals some of Dwight’s whisky; he can barely swallow it down, though, and adds some water to the bottle... (full context)
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On the day that Chuck comes to collect Jack from Chinook, Dwight takes Jack aside and says he wants to talk to him. Jack, though, simply shakes... (full context)
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...now on his time in Chinook, the older Tobias reflects on how his hatred of Dwight—and Dwight’s hatred of him—“disfigured” him and ruined his childhood. Now, when he thinks of Chinook,... (full context)
Chapter 26
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...in addition, meet with a preacher named Father Karl—he has nowhere else to go, as Dwight won’t let Jack through his door and Rosemary has not yet found a place or... (full context)
Chapter 27
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Jack and Rosemary discuss Dwight. Rosemary says that she doesn’t understand why Dwight even wants her to stick around; she... (full context)
Chapter 28
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...school lunch, and the two maintain a friendship. One day, Pearl mentions that she and Dwight are driving down to Seattle—supposedly to spend time with Norma, but really so that Dwight... (full context)
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...night, after midnight, Chuck and Jack sneak out and drive to Chinook. They get to Dwight’s house, and after seeing that his car is not in the driveway, Jack gets out... (full context)
Chapter 30
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...a double feature. Together, they drive around to various pawn shops and try to sell Dwight’s guns. At the third pawn shop they go to, the woman behind the counter suspects... (full context)
Chapter 31
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...East, taking a job in Washington, D.C. Over the Christmas holidays, while Jack is visiting, Dwight follows her there, and tries to strangle her in the lobby of her apartment building,... (full context)