Study Guide

The First Part Last Sacrifice

By Angela Johnson

Sacrifice

And this is how I turned sixteen….

Skipped school with my running buddies, K-Boy and J. L., and went to Mineo's for a couple slices. (2.1-2)

Giving something up and taking responsibility is entirely foreign to Bobby before he finds out his girlfriend is pregnant and becomes a father. He doesn't even try to further his education—he's just living life, and his priorities are all about friends and fun. But before long, life changes big time for him.

My bones ache tired, but I'm wide awake.

I must be the only person up now. Even the city is quiet. Our neighborhood at least. I don't know what that means, except everyone in the world must have a new baby who kept them up most of the night and they've all passed out. (5.1-2)

Bobby's mom refuses to parent Feather; the baby is Bobby's responsibility and his alone. Is letting Bobby suffer through the difficulties of parenting a sacrifice for Mary, or isn't it? What makes you say this?

Yeah, Mr. Wilkins, I got your daughter pregnant.

Yeah, Mrs. Wilkins, I know that this is a tragedy 'cause you all expected more responsible behavior from us. (6.18-19)

What are Bobby and Nia giving up in telling their parents about the pregnancy? What are they gaining? How might exposing their irresponsible behavior be a sacrifice for them?

I lay my basketball down and it rolled out the door into the hall toward Mary's room.

And I'd almost got all the way to the corner. (7.12-13)

Bobby can't do what he wants to anymore—he can't go play basketball with his friends at the drop of a hat. In fact, he almost forgets he has a baby. He has to take Feather everywhere, except to school, so even though he thinks Feather is worth what he's giving up, the day-to-day is pretty difficult for him.

This must be it.

This must be what my mom's eyes narrow and nasty words come out of her mouth.

This must be what helped give my dad an ulcer and that look on his face that says—what next?

This must be it. The place where you really feel that it's all on you and you got a kid. (9.1-4)

Even though a couple and a family may have the best intentions, raising kids is hard. In some ways, Mary and Fred sacrificed their marriage for the good of themselves and their children. Sacrifice is almost always tied to responsibility in The First Part Last.

I keep rubbing my eyes 'cause it keeps me from having to talk. At least it seems that way to me. I'm sick of talking. I've been talking to a baby all night long and into the morning. (11.16)

When Bobby falls asleep in class, it's because he was up taking care of his daughter. Even though he never intended to make this sacrifice, he ends up sacrificing some of his education for his daughter's welfare. Is something a sacrifice if it's unintentional?

I'm the pale white ghost boy beside the brown girl who is always looking away. Sometimes in the picture, my brothers show up, make themselves known, then leave the painting again.

Like in real life. (15.20-21)

Want to know all about this mural? Then hop on over to the "Symbols" section to dig into what Bobby's lost in becoming a dad.

She leans against me again. "I don't want to do it."

"Do what, Nia?"

"I don't want to be anybody's mother. I'm not done with being a kid myself. I'm way too young and so are you." (20.32-34)

Bobby seems a lot more apt to keep Feather and to give up his previous life for her. Nia's just not ready for it; she's not willing to give up the freedom and irresponsibility of childhood. And Bobby might not be either, but he does it anyway.

Anyway, in a month, it'll all be over. We decided the other day, it would all be over.

Nia cried.

I cried. (24.7-9)

The young parents are doing what people tell them is right: giving Feather up for adoption. But there's sadness there. Why? Why do Bobby and Nia find it hard to give up Feather, even though she may have the chance at a better life? What's the flip side of sacrifice?

"No, I don't know anything about raising a kid. I'm sixteen and none of those people on the wall look like the kind of family me and Feather's gonna be. But I'm doing it." (29.49)

This is the big moment—Bobby decides that even though he's not the perfect father, he's going to raise Feather. He has no idea what he's getting himself into, and he doesn't care. He's willing to do anything for his daughter, face the unknown, and assume responsibility when he's still just a kid himself. And that is the ultimate sacrifice that he can make.

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