Brent is an only child. His family is materially well-off, and his life is comfortable, although his parents seem to be emotionally distant. Brent and his family have been in Chicago for only a few months, having moved there from Atlanta as a result of his father's promotion within his company. The promotion has improved the family's financial status considerably, and upon moving to Chicago, Brent has been put into a private school, and his mother has gone on a furniture-buying spree. In their new, two-story home in Chicago, the family has "suddenly begun dining in the kitchen, where they'(ve) put a small TV." At mealtimes, each family member serves himself or herself at the kitchen counter, then sits on a stool to watch television.
Brent's father is a corporate-climber, and his parents' values appear to be completely materialistic and emotionally empty. When watching TV, Brent's father constantly flips channels with the remote control, being careful to avoid commercials and broadcasts of things unpleasant, allowing the family to watch only what amounts to "a finely ground visual hash." Both parents have had previous marriages, which while in itself is not necessarily an indication of a lack of commitment or depth in relationships, might be in their cases, in the context of the descriptions of their characters. Brent's father aspires to own a Jaguar, and his mother, while telling Brent perfunctorily to "write down where you'll be" when he tells her he is going to a party, does not really seem to care what he does. Brent's family's lifestyle has resulted in a number of relocations over the years, and it is difficult for Brent to keep changing schools and making new friends all the time. It would not be surprising if, in his need to fit in with a new set of peers, he might be prone to acting rashly on occasion, and making poor decisions (Chapter 1).