In his memoir, This Boy’s Life, Tobias Wolff explores his childhood as he attempts to define who he is and who he wants to be in life. Throughout the book Toby has an ideal person that he idolizes, but is unable to achieve. This version of him shows up when he's forging his applications for prep school and again when Mr. and Mrs. Howard take him to get new clothes and he's looking in the mirror. This person has confidence, gets good grades, and is a star athlete, and is cool; the kind of person you'd find at a prep school like the Hill school. Although within the narration of the book Toby never achieves his ideal, he leaves the reader wondering if he is capable of change.
” (11) He could be forgiven for this action, except that a mere two days later, he pointed the gun given to him by Roy out his window at an old married couple. “I had been aiming at two old people, a man and a woman, who walked so slowly that by the time they turned the corner at the bottom of the hill my little store of self-control was exhausted.” (25) However, his tendencies to aim dangerous weapons at innocent people is not his only moral flaw. Toby also lies in confessional. After becoming baptized, he is supposed to prepare for communion by confessing his sins. Sister When he enters the booth, he can not bring himself to admit to his own sins. Instead, he takes the example Sister James gives him and parrots it back to the priest.
Toby’s behavior also stems from his lack of guidance from Rosemary. Toby said early on that he was supportive of his mother, but his mother keeps falling for drunken and abusive men: First Roy, then Gill and Judd, and finally Dwight. Toby is always left to console Rosemary after she gets her heart broken. After Roy has stopped chasing Rosemary, she gets talked into a date by Gill and his wingman Judd, but the “date” goes poorly and Toby is left to console his mother as she cries after she gets home. Similarly, Toby doesn’t live in one place for very long, as a result of Rosemary’s men. After Rosemary leaves Roy, she and Toby travel west to Utah. When Rosemary /considers marrying Dwight, Toby moves to Concrete to live with him. When Rosemary finally comes to her senses that Dwight is just like the other men she has been with, she sends Toby to live with his real father in California.. Toby’s constantly having to relocate attributes to the instability in his life. He has few constants in his life to which he can hold on. Finally, Rosemary wants what is best for Toby, but does not have the ability to provide that for him. Her father was abusive towards her, and she does not want the same thing to Toby. As a result, she makes an effort not to be the same way towards Toby.
Of all the adults in Toby’s life, Dwight has the most influence. Dwight drinks and often becomes violent with Toby. (Example w/ Quote) After Toby injuries his finger in his woodshop class, he drinks some of Dwight’s alcohol to ease the pain. In the subsequent pages, he begins to drink more frequently, turning to it, when he is angry or in a social situation, like Dwight. At school, Toby has a friend named Arthur. When Toby calls him a sissy, they end up in a fight. Afterwards, Dwight expresses pride in Toby’s actions.. “I felt a surge of pride and connection; connection not to [Arthur] but to Dwight (221).” The longer Toby stays with Dwight, the more like him he becomes, although Dwight always maintains control over Toby. Finally, when Dwight...