Study Guide

The First Part Last Men and Masculinity

By Angela Johnson

Men and Masculinity

In The First Part Last, Bobby is trying to figure out what it means to be a man. And boy oh boy, is it difficult for him. So what if Bobby has some pretty good role models in his father, his brother, and even his mother? His desire to be a man is at war with his desire to remain a reckless, irresponsible teenager. Manhood is all tangled up with maturity and responsibility, and Bobby is full of insecurity and uncertainty as he tries to move into this new identity. As the book closes, and Bobby settles into Heaven, though, we're thinking he's well on his way.

Questions About Men and Masculinity

  1. How do characters in the novel define being a man? Consider Bobby, Just Frank, Fred, Bobby's friends, and Paul.
  2. How does Bobby's mother define being a man, and how is this different from the definitions of being a man by male characters in the novel? What makes you say this?
  3. How does Bobby express love in the novel? Does he describe this as being manly or being womanly? Why might he do this?
  4. Bobby defies some generally accepted definitions of manhood. Which ones does he defy, and what judgments can we make about him because of his disregard for standard roles of gender?

Chew on This

In The First Part Last, being a man entails taking responsibility for one's actions and doing the right thing.

Getting his girlfriend pregnant is what makes Bobby a real man.

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