While Jack and Rosemary are still living in Utah, Rosemary’s abusive boyfriend Roy—who has stalked Rosemary and Jack to Utah from Florida, refusing to give up his grip on them—gifts Jack a Winchester. 22 rifle just after Easter. Jack has longed for the rifle for a while—he sees it as “the first condition of self-sufficiency and of being a real Westerner” and feels the rifle “complete[s]” him. Despite Rosemary’s protestations, Roy purchases the rifle for Jack to practice his shooting. The rifle, then, is a symbol of the larger way in which abuse and manipulation works. Having been traumatized by watching his mother being stalked, abused, and cowed into staying in a toxic relationship, Jack feels the only way to be complete and self-sufficient is to possess a firearm, a means to violence. Roy, despite knowing the rifle’s lethal potential, gives it to Jack as a way of attempting to cement the boy’s attachment to him and frame himself as a benevolent force in his life rather than what he actually is: a manipulative abuser who wants total control over both Rosemary and Jack.
The Rifle Quotes in This Boy’s Life
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.
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.