Tobias Wolff’s memoir, This Boy’s Life,brings life to Wolff’s childhood, teenage, and young adult memories. Wolff hasexpressed detailed thoughts, feelings, and reflections on every memorymentioned in the memoir. This Boy’s Lifehas definitely achieved the genre of a memoir because of its thorough collectionof moments and events that have taken place in Wolff’s life.
The memoir is structured to have sectionand chapter breaks. There are a total of seven sections in the memoir that are titledby either one word or a small phrase that reflects a description of the memoriesrecollected in that section. Each section contained multiple chapter breaksthat are title-less and numberless, leaving the reader to read each chapter andfigure out what it is about. Wolff has also included an epigraph in thebeginning of the memoir that refers to Wolff’s willingness to create his ownidentity and tell people that he’s something he clearly is not. It also alludesto a loss of innocence, which Wolff experiences fairly early.Wolff has written the memoir in simpleprose, also known as ordinary writing. Wolff’s writing has a loosely definedstructure and follows no particular pattern. Yet it holds pure clarity whenrecalling a memory and gives the reader enough detail to picture the situationvividly in their mind and not have to assume anything.
Wolff is quite clearwith all his emotions. Every sentence and paragraph of each chapter flowssmoothly with the memory Wolff is recalling. The only parts of the memoir thatare written in verse are the memories where Wolff recalls specific songs orpoems he has read and membered when a situation triggered the memory of a poem.
Wolff’s diverse range of memories come in chronologicalorder. The memoir starts off with Wolff’s childhood, slowly moves towards Wolff’steenage life, and ends the memoir with Wolff as a young adult. There are only afew times where Wolff goes a little ahead of himself and mentions a memory fromhis adult life that he remembers while writing about his childhood life. Wolff fast-forwardsinto a memory from his adult life while writing about a situation that is aflashback of his childhood life.
Wolff’s writing is easily understandablewith a lot of dialogue, short paragraphs right to the point, sentencesstructured to have equal length, and vivid descriptions that leave the readerwith almost nothing to imagine or assume about the situation happening. Althoughsome parts of his life have been left out, the ones he has mentioned in thememoir are enough to understand what happens in Wolff’s life. Wolff uses heavy amounts of figurativelanguage in almost every paragraph written in the memoir. Similes and metaphorsare present in every memory Wolff remembers. When he writes about any person,Wolff uses countless analogies to compare the person’s character to varioussituations and emotions he feels. He also uses anecdotes on numerous occasionsto introduce a new character in the memoir or recall back to someone he used toknow.
Wolff constantly moves back and forthbetween his personal views and thoughts to what others think and is right. Hewants the reader to disagree with his decisions and follows through with itvery well. The memoir gives two different perspectives of every situation,making the reader disagree with Wolff as he puts himself down.
He is not tryingto make the reader like his character or even pity his life, instead, he triesto make to reader dislike the character he has portrayed of his childhood andyouth. He forces the reader to almost disagree with his opinion and gives no reasoningto his wrongdoings. Yet the memoir itself that Wolff has written andrecollected all his experiences in, is very well written and certainly satisfieswhat a genre of a memoir requires.