Analysis Of Tobias Wolff 's ' This Boy 's Life ' Essay

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The values of a patriarchal society are shown to be stifling and oppressive for both women and children. Discuss.

Tobias Wolff’s 1989 coming-of-age memoir, This Boy’s Life, subtly explores how a patriarchal society is not only stifling and oppressive for women and children, but also for men. Wolff does not directly comment on the patriarchal values of the 1950’s; nor does he try to condemn them, instead the reader is exposed to the suggestion that had these ideals not been so firmly ingrained in American society, that the individuals in the memoir may have been better off and that, perhaps, Jack and Rosemary could have achieved their ‘dreams of transformation’. Whilst Wolff portrays his mother, Rosemary Wolff, as an independent and optimistic woman, it becomes clear that she too is stifled by the pressure she feels to create a “nuclear family” for Jack. Jack is also not impervious to the effects of the patriarchy, desiring both a “nuclear family” and succumbing to the ideal that men and violence are linked, and to be a man is to be strong, powerful, and stoic. These ideals manifest themselves in Roy, who while abusive and controlling, is seen by Jack as “what a man should be” and his silence about his feelings and war experiences do not suggest trauma to Jack, but “heroic implication”. It becomes clear throughout the memoir that the patriarchal values of American society have a significant impact on the individuals in the text, and suggests that these values are oppressive…

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