Our Time Essay

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Alex Leen
9/5/12
English 110, 11:00
Final Draft of paper 1
In the essay “Our Time” by John Edgar Wideman he often takes a break from the narrative to address that he has many problems as a writer. He does this to try to consciously address these problems and hopefully solve these problems. He believes that if these problems are not rectified he would destroy any chance he has at telling a truthful account of his brother’s story. To rectify these problems he employs a variety of unique techniques in his writing. Looking at these techniques it is not always 100% clear how these are fixing his problems. It is also evident that the way he is writing may be going against a lot of things we were taught in school about our writing.

The first and arguably most severe of these problems is also the oldest habit of his. This is him “listening to [himself] listen” to Robby. When he says that he listens to himself listen, I think he actually means that he thinks too much when listening. He thinks about things like himself actually listening which end up being very distracting for him. When he is distracted he finds comfort in running away with his brother’s story which prevents a factual account. Obviously this is, in his mind, something that he needs to rectify in order to write the best essay he possibly can.

He claims that this habit “would destroy any chance of seeing my brother on his terms; and seeing him in his terms” (672) I believe this is him essentially saying “I need to fix this, now.” His plan to fix this problem is that he must “root out his fiction writing self” (672) by this it seems that he means he needs to ignore his instinct to take off with what the person says and making a fantastical story with it.

This leads into another problem that he has and that is that he is distracted to easily. “A stranger’s gait, or eyes, or a piece of clothing can rivet my attention. Then it’s like falling down to the center of the earth.”(672) He is distracted easily and once he is it is difficult for him to become undistracted. He doesn’t really talk about his plans to fix this. I think that there really isn’t a way for him to fix this problem other than just hunkering down and focusing on the story. There really isn’t a specific writing style or anything that can fix this. So I think this problem may be one of the hardest for him to solve because there really isn’t one specific thing he can do in his writing to fix this.

The ways that he tries to rectify these and other writing problems is by doing some rather odd things with his writing. The first being to interrupt the narrative to actively talk about these things, it’s an odd practice that requires a delicate touch to not mess up. It could have easily been distracting but he does it very tastefully. The whole point of him interrupting the narrative to bring these problems to light is so that he doesn’t forget about them. While this is not explicitly said I think he implies that this is the reason. It seems it’s to fix them but I feel that making sure he remembers them is what he means to do by fix them with this writing practice.

The other way he attempts to solve these is by changing the point of view quite often. He jumps from his own point of view, to his mother’s point of view, and to Robby’s point of view. While he goes back and forth between his own and Robby’s quite often it rarely becomes confusing or convoluted. It also helps him stay on track because he is writing through Robby’s eye. By thinking about how Robby sees and reacts to events he can’t just go off on a tangent. His mind is too preoccupied with trying to get Robby’s point of view in. While he only goes to his mother’s point of view once (I think) it is used in a very effective way. He goes in to her point of view to basically give us a taste of what Homewood is like and why she chose to raise her kids away from it. It’s a very impactful passage that helps explain a bit about their family.

The...
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