Book Report

This Boy's Life

by Thobias Wolff


This Boy's Life is about young Thobias Wolff. Separated from his brother and father by divorce, Thobias and his mother are constantly on the move. First they go to Salt Lake City in search of uranium. Here Tobias gets his first gun and his shoots a squirrel. He also changes him name to Jack Wolff here, because there is a girl in his class called Toby, and doesn't ever want that embarrassment again. Next is Seattle, where Toby meets Terry Silver and Terry Taylor. Together, the three of them throw eggs at a Ford Thunderbird and break windows. They get away with it, because at school he doesn't draw attention to himself. His mother also believes him when he denies having anything to do with this. Finally he moves to Chinook, in Dwight's household. He lives there for a time without his mother, before she marries Dwight. In Chinook, Toby gets drunk and falls off a cliff, he also befriends the local geek, and later the local bully group.

Portrait of Toby

Although the egg-tossing and window breaking and drinking may make Toby sound like a bad kid, all these things where done when he was around 13. He had a mean streak at that time. People are attracted to Toby because of his energetic and his lets-make-the-best-of-things aura and because of his readiness to forgive. Overall, Toby has a nice personality. Because of this he makes many friends, both good and bad. Jack (formerly Toby) is a kid I would have liked to meet.

One event that make Toby change

One of the many events that made Toby change something in his life was when he changed his name to Jack Wolff. His mother agreed to this, but under the condition that his name would be Jonathan, which he could shorten to Jack. His name would then be Tobias Jonathan van Wolff III. Part of the deal with his mother was also that he would have to take a year of catechism classes. These were taught by Sister James. Sister James was passionate, and she had no timidity or coyness. She did not like kids running around after school, so she started the painting, chess, and archery classes. Toby was in the archery club. The boys began hunting each other. Pretending to look for overshot arrows, the boys would drift into the woods behind the church and hunt other boys. The object as to hit a tree closest to your quarry. There were many close calls and those eventually became stories. Nobody ever admitted the real purpose of the game: to bring someone down. Some kids came to their senses and dropped out. Once, Toby almost shot Sister James. It was then that he realized the stupidity of what he was doing, so he dropped out. He already had a tendency to blame himself of a lot of things, so this was another thing to blame himself for having participated in.