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Movie Analysis "This Boy’s Life" - Type of Offender and Symptoms of Abuse

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In the opening scene of this morally edifying screen version of Tobias Wolff's 1989 memoir, it is 1957 and Toby , a teenager, is traveling with his mother Caroline to Utah. Their high hopes for a new life are shattered when her abusive lover shows up in Salt Lake City

They flee again, this time to Seattle.

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In both the film and the book This Boy’s Life Tobias Wolff is surrounded by bad role models and terrible father figures. Wolff and his mother are constantly looking for the complete family life and find themselves in a series of bad situations on their quest. In the book Toby’s relationship with his mother Rosemary is illustrated in a clear and deeper manner but the movie just didn’t seem to focus on it enough

This paper will evaluate the portrayal of Toby’s relationship with his mother and the men in their lives as told in the memoir and the film. The relationship that Toby has with his mother is a very strong bond. That is evident in the film and the book. But what Toby lacks in both versions of this story is a good father figure, which his mother seems to be always on a journey to find for him. Early in the book Toby has several misadventures with bad influences, whether they are friends or father-like figures. Roy seems to be one of the first influences to really catch the reader’s eye. He follows Toby and his mother all the way to Utah from Florida mostly just to be with Rosemary. Roy uses Toby to get to Rosemary in many ways, for example when he buys Toby the rifle or when he takes him to spy on Rosemary at work and follow her home. Roy makes this seem like it is a game to Toby and befriends him this way. This portrayal of Roy is very well done in the film, too.

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There is a range of "specialised populations" that provide evidence for a link between child sexual abuse and later outcomes. These special populations include those who have been referred for counselling, those attending specialised clinics, those seeking medical or psychiatric treatment, those in prison or detention, child victim-witnesses (child victims who have been through the legal process), and university or college students. Clearly findings might be expected to vary among these "populations", so generalising to the population at large from such specialised samples is risky (Boden, Horwood, & Fergusson, 2007; Frothingham et al., 2000). Those in detention or in prison or seeking psychiatric treatment are clearly sub-populations showing adverse outcomes, but the question is to what extent is this related to their experience of sexual abuse?

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In conclusion, symbolism used throughout This Boy’s Life is effective in the way that it reveals aspects of Toby’s life we cannot see explicitly. The overall meaning of the text is shifted with these symbols, as it gives readers a more vast knowledge on Wolff as a boy and the way he perceives different parts of his life, like Rosemary and Dwight, for example

Without these images being used in a symbolic way, Tobias Wolff’s This Boy’s Life would not be as well respected as it is today, and the lack of substance throughout the memoir would result in a more negative reading of the story of Wolff’s young life.

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Bendall, S., Jackson, H. J., Hulbert, C. A., & McGorry, P. D. (2011). Childhood trauma and psychosis: An overview of the evidence and directions for clinical interventions. Family Matters, 89, 53-60.

Boden, J. M., Horwood, L. J., & Fergusson, D. M. (2007). Exposure to childhood sexual and physical abuse and subsequent educational achievement outcomes. Child Abuse & Neglect, 31(10), 1101-1114.

Dorahy, M. J., & Clearwater, K. (2012). Shame and guilt in men exposed to childhood sexual abuse: A qualitative investigation. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 21(2), 155-175.

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