This Boy's Life Theme

778 Words4 Pages
“The American dream promises individual freedom but this proves illusory in Wolff’s memoir”

Tobias Wolff’s memoir, “This Boy’s Life” explores his record of growing up in 1950s post war America, frequented with tropes surrounding masculinity, identity and relationships between people. From Wolff, the readers begin to understand that, although he may have short lived freedom, it proves illusory for Jack again and again as a result of overshadowing male figures. Rosemary is often in a similar situation however her lack of freedom stems from societal pressures and expectations.Throughout the text we also see this theme being repeated time and time again. The only silver lining for individual freedom comes with Jack at the very end of the memoir. With these examples, Wolff proves that individual freedom is delusive, or transient at the most.

Throughout This Boy’s Life Jack’s endeavours at freedom are proven fruitless time and time again. Readers are offered an insight to this at the very beginning of the text when Jack and Rosemary are running away from Roy to Utah but, “Roy had tracked [them] down”. By incorporating this early into the text,
…show more content…
I did so with a sense of relief and homecoming.” For Jack, the army is a place where he is free, free from all the masks and oppressive individuals, where he can assume an identity that is unrestricted by anyone around him, and where is freedom is not illusory. It is not evident to readers whether this freedom lasts because the memoir ends before Tobias can explore it, however readers gain a sense that it could last from the positive tone Tobias uses for Jack’s enthusiasm towards it and the ending words, “We’d been saved.” suggesting that at that point nothing is wrong with Jack and he is finally granted the much desired individual
Open Document