Patrick Winslow — Boy Adrift?

I traveled to visit family last week, so missed my usual post. Now I’m rolling back in, as a tactical aviator might say.

For this week I vector away from aviation topics, to begin the first of several intermittent explorations into the main characters in RIVEN DAWN. None represent real people; it is a work of fiction after all. But each was crafted around personality traits common to many human conditions, not just military service. Each character has his or her own positive traits and negative flaws. That’s literature — and life, right?

The fictional Patrick Winslow is the disaffected son of Kate Mahoney and Dean Winslow. His parents’ marriage ended violently when Patrick was a toddler. For her own reasons — which we will explore in a future post — his mother cut his father off from any further communications with their son. Patrick grew up as the only child of a single mom married to her military career; and he spent many of his formative years in the care of Kate’s sister, while Kate deployed to locations around the world.

We first meet Patrick through Kate’s inadequate attempts to maintain a long-distance relationship with him across 6,000 miles and fourteen time zones while she deploys at sea in the fleet flagship. She relies on Facebook chats, e-mails, and an occasional Skype conversation to bridge that time/distance gap — lacking insight into the emotional chasm that runs far deeper. Disenchanted, Patrick finds meaning to his life in on-line video gaming, and through an attachment to a gaming friend/predator whom he knows only by his screen name, Fuchou.

As the story progresses, the mysterious Fuchou holds more sway over Patrick than his mother does — to the point where Patrick acts out in a self-destructive way under the direct influence of his Internet mentor. The outcome forces Patrick and his mother into a tense struggle in coming to terms with their own interpersonal conflicts.

Patrick’s character is largely based on a book that I read a few years ago, and reviewed on Goodreads: BOYS ADRIFT, by Leonard Sax, M.D.

Boys Adrift by Leonard Sax

The author describes a pattern of listlessness and dependency among boys and young men, a cadre of “man-boys,” twenty-something young men who live with their parents, work (if at all) in non-challenging jobs such as fast food, and seem perfectly content with their unambitious conditions. Sax attributes five causal factors: 1) Boy-unfriendly changes in schools and teaching methods, such as forcing early reading and writing at a time when boys are less developed than girls — resulting in females advancing at a faster rate. 2) Video games, a more controllable alternate reality than the academic or competitive marketplace where boys feel inadequate. (Sax also describes a correlation between video gaming and addiction to pornography, a trait that Patrick Winslow shares.) 3) Overuse of ADHD medications. 4) Environmental toxins that adversely affect immature male endocrine systems. 5) Decline of strong male role models and nurturing male communities. 

As with any sociological or psychological treatise, Sax’s theories are subject to debate. But for purposes of our story, Patrick Winslow is indeed a boy adrift, suffering not only from the generic factors that Sax describes, but also from his parents’ immature and dysfunctional relationship when they were young adults. Patrick’s own coming of age and resolution of his parental conflicts comprise a compelling sub-plot in RIVEN DAWN and its pending sequel.