It is difficult for the reader to feel much affection for the protagonist in Wolff’s memoir. Do you agree?

1600 Words May 19th, 2014 7 Pages
It is difficult for the reader to feel much affection for the protagonist in Wolff’s memoir. Do you agree?
This Boy's Life, set in America in the 1950’s, is a compelling memoir by Tobias Wolff, whom recreates the frustrations and cruelties faced throughout his adolescence, as he fights for identity and self-respect. During this period of time, America underwent major changes in the political and economic spheres, which in turn were responsible for its social makeover. Society in this time was geared toward family; marriage and children being part of the national agenda. The 1950’s was also an age of male dominance, where even if women worked, their assumed proper place was at home. Throughout the memoir, the protagonist, young Jack Wolff,
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Jack is not hurt by Dwight’s accusations that he is a thief and liar because “I did not see myself that way”. However, when Dwight calls Jack a sissy, Jack thinks of Arthur, who is his best friend and the biggest “sissy” in school, and remembers how the word sparked the fight between him and Arthur. Dwight treated Jack differently for a few days; with certain deference - “Dwight took the calls and explained that the papers had been ruined in a fight, adding that his boy Jack hung a real shiner on the Gayle kid.” This was the only time he expressed a genuine interest in Jack that bordered on admiration, rather than disgust. Dwight was always associated with hatred and negativity, but because of this certain deference after he fought, Jack felt a certain connection to him as a father figure. He felt as though he finally impressed Dwight, and even felt loved because of Dwight’s respect towards him. This discloses that Dwight’s actions had significant influence over Jack, as he continued to engage in these violent fights, in order to demonstrate his masculinity to Dwight. Jacks violent nature is driven by his belief that he has to prove his masculinity to Dwight. This attests annoyance within the reader; as Jack claims he “defined myself in opposition to him”, he ironically shares the traits of Dwight, such as violence and his desire to be regarded as powerful and masculine. However, Dwight’s deference towards Jack after he fought contrastingly draws
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