This Boy’s Life

Jack / Tobias Character Analysis

Tobias, the protagonist, renames himself Jack after Jack London early on in the story and continues to go by that name until he is admitted to boarding school towards its end. Jack is a dreamer with a wild streak. When readers first meet Jack, his mother, Rosemary, is dragging him across the country in order to escape an abusive relationship with her former lover, Roy. This rocky, transient lifestyle—not to mention witnessing abuse, fear, and manipulation at such a young age—makes Jack wary and suspicious, comfortable existing mostly on the fringes of his friend groups and school communities. As he grows up, Jack becomes something of a troublemaker. He eventually becomes the object of his mother’s new partner Dwight’s ire, and when Jack moves to the town of Chinook, Washington, to live with Dwight and his children, Jack is forced to endure cruelty, abuse, and manipulation at the hands of his new stepfather. As the abuse intensifies, so too does Jack’s rebellious streak; as he tests the limits of his own capacity for rebellion, contrarianism, and anti-authoritarian leanings, he finds himself retreating into his inner fantasy life and the various personas he has contracted for himself in order to cope with difficult situations. The older Tobias Wolff writes of his younger self with a charming, self-deprecating, but wistful eye; his distance from his younger self is symbolized by his childhood nickname, Jack, and this separation permits Wolff to bring Jack to life in full color. Jack is clever, daring, and desperate to rise above the unfair circumstances of his life; as the novel progresses and Jack dreams more ardently of escape, the older Wolff reflects on how his unorthodox upbringing both wounded and aided him as he grew from a boy into a man.

Jack / Tobias Quotes in This Boy’s Life

The This Boy’s Life quotes below are all either spoken by Jack / Tobias or refer to Jack / Tobias. 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 1 Quotes

Our car boiled over again just after my mother and I crossed the Continental Divide. While we were waiting for it to cool we heard, from somewhere above us, the bawling of an airhorn. The sound got louder and then a big truck came around the comer and shot past us into the next curve, its trailer shimmying wildly. We stared after it.

"Oh, Toby," my mother said, "he's lost his brakes."

The sound of the horn grew distant, then faded in the wind that sighed in the trees all around us.

By the time we got there, quite a few people were standing along the cliff where the truck went over. It had smashed through the guardrails and fallen hundreds of feet through empty space to the river below, where it lay on its back among the boulders. It looked pitifully small.

Related Characters: Jack / Tobias (speaker), Rosemary (speaker)
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 2 Quotes

I was subject to fits of feeling myself unworthy, somehow deeply at fault. It didn't take much to bring this sensation to life, along with the certainty that everybody but my mother saw through me and did not like what they saw. There was no reason for me to have this feeling. I thought I'd left it back in Florida, together with my fear of fighting and my shyness with girls, but here it was, come to meet me.

Related Characters: Jack / Tobias (speaker), Rosemary
Page Number: 11-12
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 3 Quotes

Roy stored his ammunition in a metal box he kept hidden in the closet. As with everything else hidden in the apartment, I knew exactly where to find it. There was a layer of loose .22 rounds on the bottom of the box under shells of bigger caliber, dropped there by the handful the way men drop pennies on their dressers at night. I took some and put them in a hiding place of my own. With these I started loading up the rifle. Hammer cocked, a round in the chamber, finger resting lightly on the trigger, I drew a bead on whoever walked by—women pushing strollers, children, garbage collectors laughing and calling to each other, anyone—and as they passed under my window I sometimes had to bite my lip to keep from laughing in the ecstasy of my power over them, and at their absurd and innocent belief that they were safe.

Related Characters: Jack / Tobias (speaker), Roy
Related Symbols: The Rifle
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:
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Though I avoided the apartment, I could not shake the idea that sooner or later I would get the rifle out again. All my images of myself as I wished to be were images of myself armed. Because I did not know who I was, any image of myself, no matter how grotesque, had power over me. This much I understand now. But the man can give no help to the boy, not in this matter nor in those that follow. The boy moves always out of reach.

Related Characters: Jack / Tobias (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Rifle
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 4 Quotes

At the end of every show the local station gave an address for Mousketeer Mail. I had begun writing Annette. At first I described myself in pretty much the same terms as I had in my letters to Alice, who was now very much past tense, with the difference that instead or owning a ranch my father, Cap'n Wolff, now owned a fleet of fishing boats. I was first mate, myself, and a pretty fair hand at reeling in the big ones. I gave Annette some very detailed descriptions of my contests with the friskier fellows I ran up against. I also invited her to consider the fun to be had in visiting Seattle. I told her we had lots of room. I did not tell her that I was eleven years old.

I got back some chipper official responses encouraging me to start an Annette fan club. In other words, to organize my competition. Fat chance. But when I upped the ante in my letters to her, they stopped sending me anything at all. The Disney Studio must have had a kind of secret service that monitored Mousketeer Mail for inappropriate sentiments and declarations. When my name went off the mailing list, it probably went onto some other list. But Alice had taught me about coyness. I kept writing Annette and began to

imagine a terrible accident in front of her house that would almost but not quite kill me, leaving me dependent on her care and sympathy, which in time would tum to admiration, love . . .

Related Characters: Jack / Tobias (speaker)
Page Number: 43-44
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 9 Quotes

I listened from the living room. My mother argued at first but Marian overwhelmed her. This time, by God, she was going to make my mother see the light. Marian didn't have all the goods on me, but she had enough to keep her going for a while and she put her heart into it, hitting every note she knew in the song of my malfeasance.

It went on and on. I reheated upstairs to the bedroom and waited for my mother, rehearsing answers to the charges Marian had made against me. But when my mother came into the room she said nothing. She sat for a while on the edge of her bed, rubbing her eyes; then, moving slowly, she undressed to her slip and went into the bathroom and drew herself a bath, and lay in the water for a long time as she sometimes did when she got chilled coming home at night in a cold rain.

I had my answers ready but there were no questions. After my mother finished her bath she lay down and read, then fixed us dinner and read some more. She turned in early. Answers kept coming to me in the dark, proofs of my blamelessness that I knew to be false but could not stop myself from devising.

Related Characters: Jack / Tobias (speaker), Rosemary, Marian
Page Number: 83
Explanation and Analysis:
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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
Explanation and Analysis:
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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 16 Quotes

Whenever I was told to think about something, my mind became a desert. But this time I had no need of thought, because the answer was already there. I was my mother's son. I could not be anyone else's. When I was younger and having trouble learning to write, she sat me down at the kitchen table and covered my hand with hers and moved it through the alphabet for several nights running, and then through words and sentences until the motions assumed their own life, partly hers and partly mine. I could not, cannot, put pen to paper without having her with me. Nor swim, nor sing. I could imagine leaving her. I knew I would, someday. But to call someone else my mother was impossible.

Related Characters: Jack / Tobias (speaker), Rosemary
Page Number: 142
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:
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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
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Chapter 20 Quotes

I brought home good grades at first. They were a fraud—l copied other kids' homework on the bus down from Chinook and studied for tests in the hallways as I walked from class to class. After the first marking period I didn't bother to do that much. I stopped studying altogether. Then I was given C's instead of A's, yet no one at home ever knew that my grades had fallen. The report cards were made out, incredibly enough, in pencil, and I owned some pencils myself.

All I had to do was go to class, and sometimes even that seemed too much. I had fallen in with some notorious older boys from Concrete who took me on as a curiosity when they discovered that I'd never been drunk and still had my cherry. I was grateful for their interest. I wanted distinction, and the respectable forms of it seemed to be eluding me. If I couldn't have it as a citizen I would have it as an outlaw.

Related Characters: Jack / Tobias (speaker)
Page Number: 184
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 22 Quotes

I declined to say I was a football star, but I did invent a swimming team for Concrete High. The coach wrote a fine letter for me, and so did my teachers and the principal. They didn't gush. They wrote plainly about a gifted, upright boy who had already in his own quiet way exhausted the resources of his school and community. They had done what they could for him. Now they hoped that others would carry on the good work.

I wrote without heat or hyperbole, in the words my teachers would have used if they had known me as I knew myself. These were their letters. And on the boy who lived in their letters, the splendid phantom who carried all my hopes, it seemed to me I saw, at last, my own face.

Related Characters: Jack / Tobias (speaker)
Page Number: 214
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:
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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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Chapter 26 Quotes

Everyone liked Chuck. Sober, he was friendly and calm and openhanded. When I admired a sweater of his he gave it to me, and later he gave me a Buddy Holly album we used to sing along with. Chuck liked to sing when he wasn't in church. It was hard to believe, seeing him in the light of day, that he had spent the previous night throwing himself against a tree. That was why the Bolgers had so much trouble coming to terms with his wildness. They saw nothing of it. He lingered over meals in the main house, talked with his father about the store, helped his mother with the dishes. His little sisters fawned on him like spaniels. Chuck seemed for all the world a boy at home with himself, and at these times he was. It wasn't an act. So when the other Chuck, the bad Chuck, did something, it always caught the Bolgers on their blind side and knocked them flat.

Related Characters: Jack / Tobias (speaker), Chuck Bolger
Page Number: 240
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 29 Quotes

Mrs. Howard arranged the scarf so it hung casually between the lapels of the overcoat. She glanced at me again and then stepped back so that I was alone before the mirror. The elegant stranger in the glass regarded me with a doubtful, almost haunted oppression. Now that he had been called into existence, he seemed to be looking for some sign of what lay in store for him.

He studied me as if I held the answer.

Luckily for him, he was no judge of men. If he had seen the fissures in my character he might have known what he was in for. He might have known that he was headed for all kinds of trouble, and, knowing this, he might have lost heart before the game even got started.

But he saw nothing to alarm him. He took a step forward, stuck his hands in his pocket, threw back his shoulders and cocked his head. There was a dash of swagger in his pose, something of the stage cavalier, but his smile was friendly and hopeful.

Related Characters: Jack / Tobias (speaker)
Page Number: 276
Explanation and Analysis:
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Jack / Tobias Character Timeline in This Boy’s Life

The timeline below shows where the character Jack / Tobias appears in This Boy’s Life. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Storytelling and Escapism Theme Icon
The young Tobias and his mother Rosemary are on a road trip across the Midwest when their car... (full context)
Abuse Theme Icon
The year is 1955, and Toby and his mother are driving from Florida to Utah to get away from a man... (full context)
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The day after the truck goes over the cliff, Rosemary and Toby arrive in Utah, but find they are months too late—the uranium boom has filled up... (full context)
Chapter 2
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In Utah, Toby has plans for his own reinvention. He has “Western dreams” of freedom and self-sufficiency, and... (full context)
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Once a week after school his first fall in Utah, Jack attends catechism classes at the church under the instruction of a nun called Sister James.... (full context)
Identity and Performance Theme Icon
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The young Jack is “subject to fits of feeling […] unworthy.” Though the feeling is unfounded, he worries... (full context)
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Jack, hungry for connection, spends his time running around with boys from school or talking to... (full context)
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Each night, Jack goes home to his mother—and to Roy. Roy has followed them to Utah, and though... (full context)
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Many afternoons, Roy, with Jack in the car, drives to the building where Rosemary works, waits for her to leave... (full context)
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...“fool” him, she grows quiet. That night, dinner is silent, but after the meal, when Jack goes to bed, he hears his mother and Roy arguing about her right to go... (full context)
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That Easter, Jack is baptized with several others from his catechism class. To prepare themselves for communion, they... (full context)
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In the kitchen, Sister James tells Jack there’s nothing to be afraid of, and begins “confessing” to him some of her own... (full context)
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Jack sits down in the confession booth once more and tells the priest that he steals... (full context)
Chapter 3
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Just after Easter, Roy gives Jack a present: a Winchester .22 rifle. Roy had carried it as a boy, and he... (full context)
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Jack cleans the rifle, then puts it together and marches around the apartment with it, then... (full context)
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Jack loads the gun with ammo—he knows where Roy’s hiding place is—and continues playing sniper at... (full context)
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One afternoon, aiming out the open window, Jack, shoots at a squirrel and kills it. Jack hurriedly puts his gun away, and when... (full context)
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For several days, Jack stays away from the apartment at times he knows he would be home alone. Even... (full context)
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As the days go by, Jack begins taking out the rifle, cleaning it, and playing with it again without loading it.... (full context)
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After a few moments, Sister James gives up and slides an envelope under the door. Jack hears her go back to her car and start it up; he peeks out the... (full context)
Chapter 4
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One afternoon, Roy and Jack are home alone in the apartment. Roy asks Jack what he thinks about the idea... (full context)
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When Jack comes home from school, Rosemary has almost all of their things packed. She asks Jack... (full context)
Chapter 5
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In West Seattle, Jack and Rosemary take up residence in a boardinghouse. They spend their time wandering the streets... (full context)
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Jack makes two friends in school, Terry Taylor and Terry Silver. All three boys have single... (full context)
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...Mickey Mouse Club on television and lust after one of the beautiful cast members, Annette. Jack begins writing fan letters to Annette in the same vein as his letters to Alice,... (full context)
Chapter 6
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One afternoon, Rosemary takes Jack down to the harbor to watch a mock naval battle and airshow. As they watch... (full context)
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Back at the man’s house, his friend Judd makes Jack a baloney sandwich while the other man, Gil, and Rosemary watch the show from the... (full context)
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...gets all dolled up in a fancy outfit and asks Marian and Kathy to watch Jack while she’s out. Jack can’t fall asleep until his mother gets home—when she comes back... (full context)
Chapter 7
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...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... (full context)
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Rosemary never disciplines Jack. Her father, a “great believer in the rod,” had spanked her every day of her... (full context)
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Jack begins getting into more and more trouble at school with his friends Taylor and Silver.... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 8
Identity and Performance Theme Icon
That year, Jack and Rosemary arrive in Chinook the day before Thanksgiving to spend the holiday with Dwight... (full context)
Identity and Performance Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
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...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,... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 9
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The week after Thanksgiving, Jack tells Taylor and Silver a story about how he participated in the turkey shoot and... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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Jack listens from the other room as Marian tells Rosemary all about what a bad kid... (full context)
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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... (full context)
Chapter 10
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Dwight drives Jack up from Seattle to Chinook in a “sullen reverie,” barely speaking to Jack the whole... (full context)
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...off at a tavern. He brings a burger and fries out to the car for Jack and tells him to sit tight for a while. Jack waits for hours in the... (full context)
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...from the tavern, he drives home drunk the rest of the way. As he takes Jack through a sickening series of curves up the side of a mountain, Jack complains about... (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... (full context)
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Dwight has filled several boxes with horse chestnuts, and charges Jack with husking and shucking them. The husks are hard and covered in spines and bleed... (full context)
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Dwight arranges for Jack to take on a paper route, which he completes every day after school. Jack earns... (full context)
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Jack misses his mother, who, in the weeks since Christmas, has still refused to give Dwight... (full context)
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At the end of each visit, Jack’s mother always pulls him aside and asks if there’s anything she needs to know about,... (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... (full context)
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...is supposed to come up, she calls on the phone and asks to talk to Jack. She asks Jack if he’s still feeling “good” about everything, and confesses she has been... (full context)
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Rosemary tries one last time to impress upon Jack that it isn’t too late to change their minds—if Jack wants to come home, Rosemary... (full context)
Chapter 12
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Jack meets a new boy who lives in the village of Chinook—Arthur Gayle is the “uncoolest... (full context)
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One spring day, Arthur approaches Jack in the street out front of his house and teases him for his yellow-looking hands,... (full context)
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Rosemary helps Jack take a shower and clean his cuts and bruises. Pearl urges Rosemary to tell Dwight... (full context)
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When Dwight comes home from work that evening, he comes straight to Jack’s door, and Jack worries he’ll be in trouble. Instead, Dwight is cheery, and wants to... (full context)
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One afternoon that summer, Jack runs into Arthur on the street during his paper route. They approach each other nervously—they... (full context)
Chapter 13
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...The shed where Skipper works on the car is the only place where he and Jack ever really talk or bond. Over Jack’s first summer in Chinook, the car starts coming... (full context)
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Jack begins fantasizing about the adventures the two of them will have in Mexico and begins... (full context)
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After Skipper leaves for Mexico, Jack feels as if the room they share is painfully empty. In addition to missing Skipper,... (full context)
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Due to Skipper’s influence, Jack develops a keen interest in cars. He begins hitchhiking at the end of his paper... (full context)
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...and his friend were caught in a sandstorm down in Mexico—as he tells the story, Jack can tell that Skipper is trying very hard not to cry. Despite the damage, Jack... (full context)
Chapter 14
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Jack joins the basketball team at school, and as such needs new sneakers. Dwight refuses to... (full context)
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After a game one night, Norma and Bobby are late picking Jack up. As Jack gets into the car with them, he notices how warm the air... (full context)
Chapter 15
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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, Dwight becomes... (full context)
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During this period of time, Jack is a self-described liar, constantly trying on different versions of himself. He also becomes a... (full context)
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...a rifle match and she and Dwight go into the tavern to drink, Pearl and Jack are left alone in the car and try to come up with ways to entertain... (full context)
Chapter 16
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One afternoon, rifling through his mother’s things while she’s out, Jack finds a letter to her from his uncle, who lives in Paris. That night, Jack... (full context)
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One afternoon, weeks later, Rosemary catches Jack at the front door as he’s coming back from his paper route and asks him... (full context)
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Jack’s uncle, however, makes an interesting proposal: he wants Jack to consider coming to Paris by... (full context)
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They tell Dwight about the idea of Jack going to Paris, and Dwight is “all for [it.]” Pearl, meanwhile, is insanely jealous. Jack... (full context)
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As the start of the summer and Jack’s date of departure nears, another letter comes from Jack’s uncle in Paris—it states that he... (full context)
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Jack is disheartened, but Rosemary urges Jack to seriously consider his uncle’s generous offer. Jack is... (full context)
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Jack knows, however, that there is nothing to think about—he is his mother’s son, and cannot... (full context)
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A few days after the letter, Jack announces at dinner one night that he’s not going to Paris. Dwight insists that Jack... (full context)
Chapter 17
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...tree is half-bare. That night, Bobby comes over and takes Norma out for a while. Jack is in bed by the time she comes back, crying loudly to Pearl and Rosemary... (full context)
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...Norma doesn’t really love Kenneth, but she goes on to marry him, anyway. The older Tobias writes that, over the years, the light and happiness in Norma went out, and she... (full context)
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...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 announces it’s... (full context)
Chapter 18
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By the time Jack is preparing to start his first year at Concrete High School, he has saved up... (full context)
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Arthur’s family life is not violent like Jack’s, but he’s nevertheless dissatisfied with his parents. Arthur spends a lot of his time telling... (full context)
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As Arthur and Jack have grown closer, they’ve spent more and more time together, sleeping over at one another’s... (full context)
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Jack packs a change of clothes in a duffel bag for the Gathering—he doesn’t want to... (full context)
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After the Gathering, Jack stands with the rest of his troop, waiting to be picked up. He knows that... (full context)
Chapter 19
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One night, when Jack gets home from school, there is a big, ugly, mangy dog in the utility rom.... (full context)
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Dwight and Jack take Champion out hunting at a gravel quarry where some skinny ducks are known to... (full context)
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Champion and Jack have an uneasy relationship at first, but soon Champion will hardly leave Jack’s side, and... (full context)
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On one of these middle of the night drives, Jack gets the car stuck in a ditch. Realizing he can’t get it out, he and... (full context)
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The next morning, Jack says he doesn’t feel good, and Rosemary allows him to stay home sick for the... (full context)
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...little girl, Dwight is forced to take Champion out to the woods and shoot him. Jack knows what Dwight is doing when he takes Champion away, but doesn’t accompany him. From... (full context)
Chapter 20
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...or join the army before graduating. There are not many good teachers there, and though Jack brings home good grades in his first couple years, they are a “fraud”—he copies other... (full context)
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Even going to class sometimes feels like “too much” of an effort for Jack—he has fallen in with a “notorious” group of older boys and is dedicated to becoming... (full context)
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The boys often “share” girlfriends, and they try to help Jack lose his virginity. Jack, though, wants to lose his virginity to someone he loves, and... (full context)
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The older boys do succeed, however, in helping Jack get drunk for the first time. The experience is strange, dreamlike, and transcendent, and ends... (full context)
Chapter 21
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Jack has not seen his brother Geoffrey in six years and hasn’t heard from him since... (full context)
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On a Scouting trip to Bellingham, Jack sneaks away from the group and goes into a bank where he tears a check... (full context)
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Jack brings some magazines, aftershave, and other assorted things up to the register, where the woman... (full context)
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The clerk asks if Jack has any identification; he produces his library card. When she asks for his address, though,... (full context)
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Jack runs down the street and away from the drug store. He ducks into a nearby... (full context)
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Outside, Jack can see a police car parked in front of the drug store. He hurries up... (full context)
Chapter 22
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Geoffrey sends Jack a letter containing a story he wrote about an American imprisoned in Italy for murdering... (full context)
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Geoffrey writes back expressing admiration for Jack’s story and filling him in on his life at Princeton; it is his last year... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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Jack leaves the house and wanders around the village. He gets himself a soda and then... (full context)
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After asking a little bit about Jack’s schooling—and hearing Jack’s exaggerated brags about his academic and athletic success—Geoffrey suggests Jack apply to... (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... (full context)
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Jack sends off for application forms from several prestigious schools recommended by Geoffrey, but when they... (full context)
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One night, Jack’s father, Mr. Wolff, calls the house. He assures Jack that he’ll get into whatever school... (full context)
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...negotiate his way out of the class by agreeing to work in the school office. Jack asks Arthur to help him out with his applications, which he has decided to finish... (full context)
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The letters Jack writes about himself reflect the truth of the way he thinks about himself; he does... (full context)
Chapter 23
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Arthur and Jack have been getting into more and more verbal and physical fights at school. Mr. Mitchell,... (full context)
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...boys have grown apart; Arthur gets good grades and even has a steady girlfriend, while Jack gets into trouble and looks down on the “straight-arrows and strivers” Arthur is friendly with.... (full context)
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...and (unlikeliest 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... (full context)
Chapter 24
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Jack begins receiving rejections from several schools. Some of them he expected, but the one from... (full context)
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Jack tells Mr. Howard to meet him at the Concrete drugstore—he knows that kids from school... (full context)
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None of Mr. Howard’s warnings, though, put Jack off the idea of prep school; he tells the man that both his father and... (full context)
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As Mr. Howard drops Jack back off at school, he offers him one more warning about the difficulties associated with... (full context)
Chapter 25
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Jack is in shop class, working at the table saw when he feels a sharp pinch—he... (full context)
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By the time Jack gets home he is addicted to morphine, which his nurses gave him freely as his... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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Rosemary talks to Chuck Bolger’s parents, and they agree to take Jack in for a few months until the end of the school year. Rosemary, in the... (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,... (full context)
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Looking back 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... (full context)
Chapter 26
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...rage, and throws himself against walls, trees, and other objects. In the mornings, Chuck asks Jack what he did the night before—Jack is uncertain if Chuck is merely pretending not to... (full context)
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Chuck and Jack live together in a converted storage shed on the Bolger’s large property. Each night, after... (full context)
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Despite Chuck’s excessive drinking and occasionally violent temperament, he is always very kind to Jack, and Jack likes him and values their friendship. Jack marvels at the fact that when... (full context)
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One night, while drinking and playing cards, Jack and his friends decide it might be fun to drive out to Bellingham. Chuck does... (full context)
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The next morning, Mr. Bolger wakes Chuck and Jack and urges them to get dressed and come to the main house. In the kitchen,... (full context)
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Chuck and Jack drive the cans back over to the Welches’ and then bring them up to the... (full context)
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That afternoon, Mr. Bolger comes to the shed to talk to Chuck and Jack and ask if they made their apologies. Jack confesses that though he wanted to say... (full context)
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...next day. She talks with the Bolgers for a couple of hours, and then takes Jack for a drive. She tells him that she has had to beg the Bolgers to... (full context)
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Towards the end of the week, Father Karl comes to collect Jack from the Bolgers’ and asks him to take a walk. Father Karl tells Jack his... (full context)
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Later that week, Mr. Bolger tells Jack that the Welches have refused to accept his help—this, Mr. Bolger says, is the “ultimate... (full context)
Chapter 27
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Chuck comes back to the shed from the main house and tells Jack the whole story. He says he can’t marry Tina Flood—and told the sheriff that he’d... (full context)
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The sheriff begins pressuring Chuck more harshly to make a decision. Jack suggests Chuck run off and join the army, but Chuck doesn’t want to do that... (full context)
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In the middle of all the madness, Jack receives another telephone call at school one day from Mr. Howard, who informs him that... (full context)
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Jack’s letter arrives and informs him that he has received almost a full scholarship. The letter... (full context)
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Rosemary comes to pick Jack up from school one afternoon and takes him out for a Coke to celebrate. She... (full context)
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Jack and Rosemary discuss Dwight. Rosemary says that she doesn’t understand why Dwight even wants her... (full context)
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...from the main house, he is elated, and falls to the floor laughing. He tells Jack, through his laughs, that there is going to be a wedding, and it’s going to... (full context)
Chapter 28
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After Rosemary leaves for Seattle, Pearl becomes despondent. Jack often sits with her at school lunch, and the two maintain a friendship. One day,... (full context)
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Later that afternoon, Jack gets an idea. That night, after midnight, Chuck and Jack sneak out and drive to... (full context)
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...or take any side trips. Though Mr. Bolger tires to be stern with his order, Jack can tell that he is happy to send the boys off to accomplish some grown-up... (full context)
Chapter 29
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Jack meets Mr. Howard and his wife for lunch, and over the meal Mr. Howard happily... (full context)
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Mr. Howard and Mrs. Howard take Jack to Mr. Howard’s tailor, where he’s fitted for suits. Mr. Howard buys Jack an enormous... (full context)
Chapter 30
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Jack meets Chuck outside a movie theater, where Chuck has spent the afternoon at a double... (full context)
Chapter 31
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The day after Jack arrives in California to spend the summer with his father and Geoffrey, his father takes... (full context)
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Jack’s father comes back, and then Geoffrey arrives. After picking Geoffrey up from the bus, he... (full context)
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That fall, Jack goes off to school, and Rosemary follows him East, taking a job in Washington, D.C.... (full context)
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Jack does not do well at Hill—he knows “nothing.” He meets a kindly teacher who agrees... (full context)
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The older Tobias reflects on how when he was young, he believed “that [his] dreams [were] rights.” That... (full context)