Type: Literary Analysis
Pages: 4 | Words: 1029
Reading Time: 5 Minutes

This Boy’s Life revolves around Tobias Wolff, who, during his childhood, was called as “Jack”. Repeatedly, Jack tries to remake himself hoping to achieve a better life. The memoir concentrates on Jack’s teenage years and a different image he tries on during his later life. Tobias Wolff, the author of This Boy’s Life, makes the clearest use of The Myth of the Chosen Nation. This is described through the use of such themes as poverty and the pursuit of happiness, oppression, and optimism for asserting his miserable teenage life.

A myth, as Hughes explains, is not so much falsehood, but it is a story about the events and circumstances that have considerable importance both for those involved and for those that follow. In fact, myths are the fundamental truths for members of any culture holding them, performing them, or recognizing them. They are, at other times, expressed in the scattered ideologies. However, in such analyzed societies like the United States, they are rooted in historical tales about their past (Hughes). Memoirs, on the other hand, are stories about one’s life narrating the particular events that happened in their lives. This Boy’s Life memoir and the Myth of the Chosen Nation share such themes as poverty, oppression, and a search for a better life.

This Boy’s Life is a memoir that begins with Toby, previously called Jack, and his divorced mother going to the west from Florida. They are fleeing from his mother’s abusive boyfriend with a plan of becoming rich in the uranium fields of Utah. When that does not work out, they move on to the west coast, where his mother travels from place to place looking for a job. Toby and his mother are fleeing from poverty and abusive life in the search of green pastures (Wolff 83). This way, he is like the puritans similar to the Myth of the Chosen Nation where they also were migrating to America trying to evade poverty and searching for the good life.

Hughes writes about a puritan errand in the American wilderness. He means that they have also faced some difficulties as they tried to get some work. Firstly, Hughes begins by talking about the English Reformation and offers an instructive description of William Tyndale as the British source for the thought of a national covenant. At its best, this myth appeals to the Americans to bear the responsibilities manifesting. This is called by Hughes as the national creed, “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” (Hughes 23).

Oppression is a theme that Toby brings out. This occurs when his mother gets married to Dwight, a self-interested, scheming and cruel man making both Toby and his mother miserable. The memoir dwells mostly on Toby’s hopelessness and his often destructive attempts to live under the reign of Dwight’s terror criticizing and scolding Toby for his real and conceived flaws. Dwight’s angry outbursts are constantly at the forefront of Toby’s mind. He allocates Toby’s errands for no reason other than to display his command and control over the family. Dwight also forces Toby to distribute newspapers and afterward takes the money that Toby has earned for himself.

The only time he expresses an actual interest in Toby is when he trains the boy how to wrestle. He is thrilled by Toby’s display of aggressiveness, especially since it will be directed against Gayle, an infamous pansy, having a transient friendship with Toby (Denby 40). The puritans, like Toby, have undergone the same cruel circumstances where they first started being mistreated by their employers. Hughes notes that there was slavery, and the government itself was majorly responsible for upholding the system. Being central to this Myth of the Chosen Nation is the idea of a national convention, in which the dwellers live impartially (Hughes 93).

Toby attempts to remake himself. Repeatedly, Toby recreates his past and experiments with different images in quest of a respectable standing. As Wolff states, “I did not know who I was, any image of myself, no matter how grotesque, had power over me”. Toby goes from Boy Scout to an offspring of Prussian aristocrats, to a crook, to Tobias Wolff. Each of these personalities allows him to be related to different classes. Instead of challenging the class structure that lessens his value, Toby attempts to re-envision himself to match that structure.

Toby gets the chance to leave Concrete and establish a new life when he is accepted to the elite Hill School. Before he leaves home for Hill, his mother arranges for him to temporarily stay with Chuck Bolger after Dwight has shoved him in her presence. Although Toby has promised his mother that he will be on his best behavior, while being at Bolger’s, he breaks his promise when he steals the gasoline from a nearby Welch farm. He feels regretful about stealing from the Welch, but cannot bring him to make an apology. This annoys him and he neglects his learning. The study does not last for a long time, and he ends up being recruited in the army, where he serves in the Vietnam War. Here, finally, he feels a sense of relief. He feels at home (Wolff 23).

The Myth of the Chosen Nation initially appeared among the Puritans. They alleged that God has selected them to “love brotherly without dissimulation” and to “bear one another burdens”. To them, being elect means that, “chosen for the good of the neighbor”. Insofar as their practice was consistent with these principles, this understanding was correct. However, just like Toby, the Puritans broke with this myth by stealing the possessions of Native Americans where they had settled (Hughes 40).

In conclusion, Tobias effectively makes use of the Myth of the Chosen Nation through the themes of oppression, pursuance of a good life, and optimism. This book offers a useful breakdown of how Americans see humanity, and why they tend to perceive it as they do now. America is depicted as the land of opportunity where everyone may achieve his or her appropriate rewards through assiduousness and hard work.

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