Tobias Wolff’s This Boy’s Life





Tobias Wolff’s This Boy’s Life

The memoir, This Boy’s Life, by Tobias Wolff, provides an intimate description of the emotional events encompassing Wolff’s adolescence amid the wandering of the United States together with his itinerant mother. The chronicle accounts for the dysfunctional and difficult boyhood that Wolff faced as a young person. The intimate description that the author provides for the audience in This Boy’s Life takes a toll on the emotional state of the reader based on its reference to a difficult past that the audience can relate. Nonetheless, irrespective of much concentration centering on Wolff as the antagonist-cum-protagonist, the memoir also enables the reader to assess the parenting skills of Wolff’s mother, Rosemary in order to determine the temperament and effectiveness of her capacities as a mother.

Rosemary, initially christened as Caroline Wolff, is Tobias Wolff’s, who later alters his name to Jack, mother. Just as any mother, Rosemary prizes her son irrespective of the hardship she goes through after the divorce between her and Toby’s father. Nonetheless, the decision and the manner in which she instructs her son does not exude her role as a good mother. After relocating from Salt Lake City to West Seattle, Rosemary realizes that she needs some form of employment and as such, requires a guardian to take care of Toby. As such, Rosemary hires Marian, who bears the role of watching over Toby. However, the relationship between Marian and Toby is difficult based on the actuality that both dislike each other. The reason for Toby’s loathe for Marian delves on the reality that Marian knows that Toby engages in questionable behaviors such as smoking and cheating (“This Boy’s Life”, 2013).

Nonetheless, Rosemary’s stance as an incapable mother receives illustration where she asserts that she does not place belief in indiscipline. As such, Rosemary, in comparison with other parents, can never punish Toby nor blame him for his misbehavior due to her own childhood. Rosemary underwent harsh discipline under her father, Daddy, who was in the Navy. This affected her to the point that she detested such conventional tactics of discipline, which she viewed as violence. Furthermore, Rosemary did not want her son to go through the similar experiences and emotions that she underwent under her father’s tyranny. Another instance in which Rosemary illustrated her poor parenting skills involves Toby’s misconduct at school. At one point, the vice principal caught Toby engaging in vandalism within the school’s restroom. However, Rosemary did not believe this irrespective of the vice-principal’s assertions by saying that, “If he says he didn’t do it, he didn’t do it!”. (Wolff, 79).

However, Toby’s delinquency aggravates to the point that he steals his stepfather’s alcohol. Knowing this as well, Rosemary pleaded to Mr. and Mrs. Bolger to permit Toby to live with them. Nevertheless, this did not prevent Toby from engaging in misconduct based on his theft of gasoline from the truck of Mr. Welch together with his comrades. This did not necessitate any confrontation from Rosemary.

Indeed, Rosemary consistently evades the difficulties that she faces in her life. Even though the hardships result from her son’s behavior or from the violent men in her life, she does not cope with such conditions. As such, in the event of her escapism from reality, Rosemary does not recognize the gravity of her evasion on the effect that it possesses on her son regardless of the fact that she is looking for a better life for her son. She is intricately involved in finding a spouse to support and care for her son by relocating from one relationship to another. In addition, when one relationship becomes difficult, she evades instead of mitigating the problem. Her relocation from state to state in the hope of finding a regulated surrounding and a husband for her and her son only creates an unstable and chaotic life for her adolescent son (“This Boy’s Life”, 2013).

In summary, the memoir presents the parental struggles that Rosemary faced in raising Toby. In context, it would be possible to assert that Toby’s actions were an expression pf his desire to receive discipline. Even though Rosemary attempts to change her and her son’s life, she does not realize the effect her actions possess on her son. Nonetheless, irrespective of the manner in which she supported Toby and disregarded the acts that her son committed, it is evident that Rosemary acted out of love. Her traumatic past, due to the harsh discipline, coerced her to lead a different way of life for Toby by supporting him irrespective of his actions.












Works Cited

“This Boy’s Life”. SparkNotes. SparkNotes LLC, n.d. Web. 20 May 2013. <>

Wolff, Tobias. This Boy’s Life: A Memoir. Paw Prints, 2008. Print.





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