At a glance, both protagonists (Jack, from This Boy's Life, and Anne, from Limbo) appear to have very little in common. Jack, the only child of a single mother, is desperately attempting to develop his identity while he lives an unstable life in which he is constantly uprooted and moved form city to city as his mother searches for a way to support him. This perpetual motion is sharply contrasted by Anne who grows up in a small Catholic town in the Wisconsin country. There, she is given an identity in the form of her faith in God. However, both characters seek a new, or at least better, understanding of their identity. This is manifested differently within each memoir in that Jack's search is general while Anne's is focused on her faith and her identity with Christ. Although each character deals with their search differently, they both conclude that there are issues that they are unable to control and simply have to accept. This acceptance is portrayed by the protagonists' inability to control the outcomes of their lives.
Throughout his childhood, Jack's constant state of relocation coupled with his lack of a steady patriarchal figure cause him to stagnant in his "male" development. Since Jack only has one constant figure to learn from (his mother) while he is growing up, he never properly learns many of the life lesson that are part of becoming a man. This is similar to the child whose parents always allow him to quite a sport that he struggles with rather than forcing him to improve and suffer defeat along the way. Jack's lack of a father figure never allows him to learn those hard "male" lessons about growing up.
This lack of a father figure is only exacerbated by Jack's constant relocation. Not only is he unable to learn how to become a man, but he is never fully able to establish himself within a social setting and develop