"This Boyís Life" is a memoir about a young manís struggles with his own identity. The first section of the chapter titled, "Uncool", is a good illustration of how the young Tobias Wolff feared other peoples perceptions of his true self. The fact that Wolff and his two friends, Taylor and Silver, were raised without true father figures in their lives played a major role in the behavior and character of these three young men. Through othering and double consciousness, the boys came to realize their weaknesses. In an effort to hide their weaknesses, they participated in deviant behavior in order to quench their thirst for power and strength. Tobias Wolffís intentions in writing such a powerful book were to find out how he became the man he is today, and as a healing tool for him to finally let go of the pain he felt as a child.
The absence of a strong father figure in the lives of Jack, Taylor, and Silver had a critical effect on their emotional health. Taylorís father never returned home from Korea, Silverís father left his mother and remarried, and Jackís father lived in Connecticut. A boy learns a lot from just being around his father. He learns what a man is and how they should act, whether itís good or bad. These three boys never had that experience from a father on a regular basis. Everything that they learned at home, they learned from their mother. By no fault of their mothers, the three boys developed a sensitive feminine side. Deep down, almost subconsciously, they were all aware of their sensitivity, which made them feel weak. Their feelings of inferiority showed with their shyness around girls, their attempts at looking cool in the mirror, and in their teasing of one another. A good example of their uneasiness around girls is shown as Wolff described Taylorís sisters, "As
girls went they were nothing special, but they were girls, and empowered by that fact to render judgment on us. They could make us cringe just by rolling their eyes. Silver and I were afraid of them..."(pg. 40). The fact that the girls were "nothing special" yet "Silver and I were afraid of them" is evidence of their emotional frailty. Jackís fear of the way others perceived him was a major cause for his nervousness.
By way of "othering" and "double-consciousness", the three boys were made aware of their inferiority. The idea of someone seeing through Jackís facade made him very nervous. One person who could see the real Jack was Marian, and Jack was fully conscious of her ability to do so. "Marian and I disliked each other. Later we both found reasons for it, but our dislike was instinctive and mysterious...She knew I didnít like her, and that I was not the young gentlemen I pretended to be"(pg. 38). There was nothing "mysterious" or "instinctive" about their dislike for one another. Jack didnít like her simply because he resented the fact that she knew of his weaknesses. Jackís association with Taylor and Silver also alerted him to the fact that he wasnít tough or cool. A good example of "othering" is that Jack saw flaws in himself by noticing the flaws that existed in his friends. Jack wanted to be admired. He wanted people to be jealous of his life the way that he was jealous of others, but when he looked at his loser friends he knew that wasnít possible. "Taylor was a dreamy thin-skinned boy who cried easily..."(pg. 39). Silver was also guilty of being weak, "...a shameless coward when his big mouth brought trouble down on us"(pg. 40). When Jack looked at his two best friends and saw a "shameless coward" and a "thin-skinned boy who cried easily" he had no choice but to come to the realization that he was no better.
The three boys, in an attempt to hide their weaknesses, resorted to deviant behavior to experience what they lacked; strength, power, and a sense of belonging. Since they had none of these characteristics, they admired Nazis for the fact that they, at one time, had an abundance of power. The feeling of belonging to something was also attractive. They watched television programs about the Nazis and