Fred Chappell’s book, I am One of You Forever, is a telling tale of what it means to be a part of a family and how that family is a part of a person no matter how far they travel or where their life takes them - Compare/Contrast Essay introduction. In the book, the primary discussion centers on the individual characters and their relationships with one another. Specifically, Chappell focuses on how the relationships serve to positively reinforce the character of the characters in question. There are two characters in particular that draw an incredible amount of focus in the book from Chappell. Jess, the book’s protagonist, and Johnson Gibbs develop an excellent relationship throughout the book that helps push the action forward and further emphasize the book’s primary talking points. Their relationship is so important to the book that neither of the characters could fully be explained without the help of the other one.
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The story begins and ends with the recollection of how Jess, a young man, grows up in the context of the entire family. At times during the story, Jess is seen as a somewhat misunderstood character. He is extremely intelligent and brings with him lots of creativity and a certain measure of charm. In the beginning of the story, Jess is somewhat immature and does not really understand his place within the family, but this changes over time. He is stuck growing up in a world that is growing up too quickly and he is not quite sure what his life will look like down the road. The book takes plenty of turns and twists in its style in order to keep the reader interested, but it stays centered on Jess, who evolves in front of the reader’s eyes.
Jess would not be nearly as easy to understand if not for the inclusion of another of the book’s primary male characters. Johnson Gibbs is a young man that is not originally a part of the working family dynamic in play, but he certainly becomes a huge part of that situation as time goes by. He is hired by Jess’s father in order to work with the family’s business and over time, he becomes a part of the family. Prior to heading off to the war, Johnson Gibbs develops a relationship with Jess that lets the reader into the character of both of these young men. They have an interesting relationship. It is one that is not quite right, though readers cannot see any clear friction between the characters. With Johnson Gibbs as an active part of the family prior to his death, Jess has to learn how to handle that in an appropriate way. Over the course of time, he does learn to do this and it helps make him a more complete character.
These two characters play an important role in the book, in both an independent fashion and in the context of their relationship. They represent a dichotomy within the story. Jess is stuck hanging around and trying to find his place within the family dynamic, while Johnson Gibbs leaves the story in untimely fashion. Still, his legacy and memory lingers on in something of an unspoken fashion for the entire family. By developing these characters in the way that he did, Chappell takes great measures to bring a new light to the story and further improve the readers’ understanding of the entire family context.