Parents’ Influence on the Life of the Main Characters Essay
Updated: Dec 26th, 2018
The relationship between parents and children is one of the themes that are often explored in various literary works. This paper is aimed at discussing two novels, namely This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff and Into the Forest by Jean Hegland. In particular, it is necessary to discuss the way in which parents influence the attitudes and values of Tobias, Nell and Eva who pass into young adulthood.
It is possible to say that lack of parental attention makes Toby him extremely self-centered and ambitious since in this ways he tries to overcome his feeling of worthlessness. In contrast, the parents of Nell and Eva help daughters retain devotion to one another at the time when many people are driven only by the need to survive. This is the main difference that can be identified.
At first, one should focus on Tobias’ experiences. It should be noted that this boy wants to be called Jack in honor of the famous writer Jack London. This is how he explains his reasons for this decision, “I wanted to call myself Jack, after Jack London. I believed that having his name would charge me with some of the strength and competence” (Wolff 8). This detail immediately attracts readers’ attention. Overall, this choice indicates that Tobias struggles with lack of self-esteem because he lacks the attention of his parents.
Moreover, this behavior can be described as escapism which means that he attempts to create a desired image of himself without really trying to change his real qualities. Additionally, this boy prefers to tell others that he is “a straight A student”, even though his academic performance is far from perfect (Wolff 213). To a great extent, this behavior could be explained by the lack of parental concern for his needs.
In contrast, Nell and Eva do not struggle with the sense of alienation, even despite the fact they parents passed away. They remember that their parents always cared about their needs and they taught them to be loyal to each other. These girls feel fully self-sufficient when they are together. This is one of the main aspects that should be identified because it illustrates in the difference in the worldviews of Toby, Nell, and Eva.
Additionally, Nell and Eva understand that their unity is vital for their survival in the world. Moreover, one cannot say that Nell and Eva are driven by the need to attain success at the expense of another. In her diary, Nell writes that the separation with Eva will be intolerable to her. She says, “I was already weeping and screaming and begging her not to leave me” (Hegland 77). These girls rely on the memories of their parents who showed them why a person should value his/her relatives or beloved.
In contrast, Tobias does not have close relations with other children or teenagers. Moreover, he is afraid of developing an attachment to another person because he does not want to cope with negative emotions or “hard feelings” provided that “closeness ends” (Wolff 217). This difference suggests that parenting care is critical for the development of an adolescent and his/her transition into adulthood. This is one of the main points that can be made.
Moreover, the readers can see different roles that parents can play. In particular, the parents of Nell and Eva are not physically present; yet, their influence is still palpable. In this case, childhood memories serve as a shield that safeguards these girls against the cruelty of the society.
Such a phenomenon is typical of people who had harmonious relationship with their parents. In turn, Tobias’ parents do not produce any positive impact on him. His psychological development is the response to the lack of parental attention. This is one of the main issues that should be taken into consideration since it is critical for explaining the behavior of this character and his perception of the world.
It is critical to examine some of the main difficulties that the characters produce encounter when they grow into young adulthood. For example, Tobias is strongly attached to his mother, but in his view that she is more interested in her intimate relations. Her marriage with Dwight adversely affects Tobias, since this boy becomes alienated from his family.
He says, “I was subject to fits of feeling myself unworthy” (Wolff 11). This is the main factor that drives his behavior. In her book, Jean Hegland describes a very different relationship between parents and children.
One should take into account that they have long become orphans. Nevertheless, the memories of parents help them to avoid the madness that engulfed the society. One can say that their mother and father always devoted the time to the needs of Nell and Eva. This is why they are so different from Tobias. It should be taken into account that these girls live in a post-apocalyptic world in which the major social institutions collapsed.
There is no external authority that can regulate the relations in the community. Furthermore, a great number of people begin to display their worst qualities when they are confronted with difficulties. Nevertheless, one cannot say the same thing about Nell and Eva who are able to retain the memories of their parents. This is why Nell writes that she is “still too much my father’s daughter to burn these pages” (Hegland 7).
It should be noted that Nell frequently mentions her deceased parents, and this legacy helps Nell and Eva retain their close bonds even at the time, many people are reduced to the status of animals. They understand that their family can be their stronghold which can protect them from the cruelty of others. This is one of the aspects that can be identified since it is vital for describing the actions of these girls and their survival in the chaotic society.
In contrast, Tobias has to cope with very different problems. One of his major desires is to be perceived as a courageous and powerful person who is able always to attain his goals. Moreover, he places much emphasis on strength as a way of escaping from reality in which nobody is attached to him.
Again, this form of behavior can be mostly attributed to his relationship with his parents, especially his stepfather Dwight, who teaches Jack to fight. In fact, the display of aggression is quite acceptable to Toby’s stepfather. Overall, Toby is opposed to Dwight, but he is influenced by the behavior of this man.
For example, Toby despises every sign of weaknesses in other people. This is something that he does not want to display. For example, he almost ends his friendship with the boy called Arthur Gale only because Dwight calls this boy a “sissy” (Wolf 168). Apart from that, it is difficult for Toby to admit that he can sometimes be wrong. Moreover, he cannot apologize to Mr. Welch who has nothing to do with Toby’s misfortunes.
The problem is that his parents have never taught him to act in this way. Such actions are completely unacceptable for people like Dwight. This is why one can argue that parents largely influence the values and attitudes of children. They shape the way in which children perceive the world. This is one of the main arguments that can be put forward. Apart from that, it is extremely difficult for Toby to integrate himself into the community.
This is one of the reasons why he eventually chooses to go to the Vietnam War since in this way; he tries to prove that he is both courageous and strong. Thus, lack of his parents’ attention profoundly shapes his transition into adulthood. In contrast, Nell and Eva are able to withstand the dramatic transformation of the society and preserve the unity of their family. They are not driven only by their self-interest because such an approach can only lead to their destruction.
It should be taken into account that Nell and Eva do not always follow the recommendations of their parents. For example, their father wants them to be homeschooled; yet, Nell wants to be educated at Harvard since in this way she can obtain more opportunities for self-development. Similarly, Eva retains her interest in dancing, even though her mother objected to this activity.
Nevertheless, the memories of parents and childhood are of great value to Nell and Eva because they give them hope and show that these girls can retain their dignity. One cannot say the same thing about Tobias who wants to forget his childhood since it did not bring him happiness.
He wants to become an adult as soon as possible, because he associates adulthood with independence and self-sufficiency. This is one of the issues that should be considered when discussing the differences between these characters whose experiences are so distinct from each other. So, one can argue that the impact of parents is the main theme explored in these novels.
Overall, this discussion indicates that the interactions with parents shape the worldview of a person. Yet, one should take into account that the influence of parents is not always beneficial. For example, the main character of Tobias Wolf’s memoir is exposed to the aggression and hostilities and these experiences make him self-centered and oriented only toward success, rather than relations with other people. This boy wants to forget his childhood which did not bring him joy.
In contrast, the memories of parents and childhood protect Nell and Eva from the dangers that a collapsing society. Moreover, in this way, these girls strengthen their family ties. To some degree, their cohesion can be attributed to the upbringing that they received. This is one of the main issues that should be mentioned. These examples show that a person’s passage into young adulthood can take various forms, and it is the duty of parents to safeguard him/her against possible pitfalls.
Hegland, Jean. Into the Forest: A Novel, Boston: Dial Press Trade Paperback, 1998. Print.
Wolff, Tobias. This Boy’s Life: A Memoir, New York: Grove Press, 2000. Print.
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