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This Boy's Life by Tobias Wolff

            The memoir, "This Boy's Life," chronicles the 'desire' Jack feels to assume a facade, but also how the 'bare' truth seeps through, no matter how many 'coats' are applied in an attempt to 'conceal' reality. The numerous influences on Jack's formation of identity are alluded to in these passages; his strong bond with his mother is only threatened by male domination; and Dwight's negative influence of drinking is demonstrated as Jack and Chuck 'drunk from the bottle.' The combination of these external factors is illustrated in the final image of in the memoir, which mirrors the beginning, with Jack and Chuck's singing extolling the idea that our past influences ultimately define our current definition of self, not the painted on veneer of an alternate identity.
             The meticulous actions of Dwight in the second passage reflect Jack's own attempt at carefully constructing an identity that will cover up the inner Toby. The tree is not splashed with paint 'here and there' but is instead drowned in white, indicating how an assumed pretence has multiple layers of deceit. However, no matter how thick the attempted facade, like the needles that 'turned faintly blue', the truth comes through often in a distorted form. Because the semblance of strength takes so much effort to upkeep, when this fails, the tree is left 'half bare' a reduced form of its previous health. Similarly, Jack begins to waste away beneath what he believes is society's ideal of masculinity, oppressed by the pressure of maintaining the falsity of his constructed identity. This contrasts with how he acts when it is only he and his mother, his attempt to 'conceal [his] disappointment' are immediately '[seen]' by his mother, and his facade is quickly dispelled. However, with the overbearing influence of Dwight, Jack's 'hold' on his true identity is lost beneath the expectation of perfection and masculinity that Dwight imposes.

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