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Our Time John Widemans

By jeffreykeller Jan 31, 2012 1031 Words
John Edgar Wideman's biography about his brother Robby Our Time can also be seen as a story about accepting responsibility. There were many things throughout the story that could have been blamed for Robby's robbery and murder conviction. One excuse could have been that Robby seemed to be born under a black cloud. He was born on December 29 which seemed a foreshadowing of his whole life for two reasons. First, his birthday, the most important day for a young boy, was associated with tragedy, because both of his grandfathers died on December 28, his grandmother on December 29, and his sister lost a baby early one January. The close of the year, which contained his birthday, was often a time of mourning, instead of his rightful time of joy and attention. His birthday celebration was also upstaged by Christmas. " (Wideman 679).

Robbie felt robbed of his individuality almost from birth. Robby's birthday symbolized how he felt he was not given the same opportunity of individuality the rest of his brothers had, and why he was so driven to make himself noticed. Another excuse for Robby's troubles was growing up in Shadyside. With the exception of a few other families, his was the only black family in the neighborhood. While they lived in Shadyside, the adults in his family wouldn't allow him to leave the white neighborhood, and, because he was cut off from the black community, he was extremely curious about them. He thought of black as the "forbidden fruit." He wanted to know what he was being kept from, and he couldn't understand why his mother and the other adults were keeping him away from it. Robby thought, "Black was a mystery and in my mind I decided I'd find out what it was all about. Didn't care if it killed me, I was going to find out" (Wideman 673).

Just before he entered high school, Robby's family moved into the black neighborhood of Homewood. Now he could find out what was really in those streets. As the youngest of his siblings, Robby needed to find, or prove, he was his own person. He wanted to make his mark in the world, but for him, school was not a place to do this. In his mind, his brothers and his sister already had used that option up, because they had all been successful in school, and he would just be repeating what had already been done before. "Wasn't nothing I could do in school or sports that youns hadn't done already. People said, here comes another Wideman. He's gon be a good student like his brothers and sister" (Wideman 673). He felt that the streets were the only place he could blaze a new trail and stand out among his already successful siblings. Just before the move to Homewood, in the black neighborhood of Garfield, he finally found what had been hidden from him his whole life. This was his first taste of the street and he felt like he belonged there. He resented his family from keeping him away from it. Robby thought, "Seemed like they just didn't want me to have no fun. That's when I decided I'd go on about my own business. Do it my way. Cause I wasn't getting no slack at home" (Wideman 674). This becomes a major turning point in Robby's life. He decided to rebel from what was expected and taught to him.

The death of Robby's friend Garth was the last excuse Robby needed to fault Society for his hard life. Garth symbolized how truly helpless the people of Homewood were in the white man's world. Garth died because the establishment didn't care about him, to them he was insignificant. Robby could identify with this sense of mediocrity. He decided that nothing is given to him, not even his own birthday, and so he will have to take what he deserves. While dying Garth had said, "You're a good man. Don't ever forget Rob. You're the best" (Wideman 654). Robbie wanted to be the best so that he would never be ignored again. He wanted to do it for Garth who died because of the indifference of the world. Garth became his reason to become a supergangster and to make it to the top, so that Garth's death wouldn't have been in vain. He thought, "It's our time now. We can't let Garth down. Let's drink this last one for him and promise we'll do what he said we could. We'll be the best" (Wideman 658).

Although these three events in his life were each critical moments for Robby, Wideman doesn't use these events to justify his brother's actions, but to explain why Robby was getting into trouble in the streets, when his brothers and sisters were getting good grades in school. After Robby's conviction and endless time to play his life over in his head, he realized that his own personal choices, and his blind determination to be a superstar is what ruined his life. "But nobody could tell me nothing then. Hardhead. You know. Got to find out for myself. Nobody could tell me nothing" (Wideman 689). He put himself behind bars and broke his mother's heart on his own. John tells this story to help himself and the reader understand what drove his brother to do the things he did, but it was Robby who was responsible for the choices he made. Robbie, tired of being controlled by circumstances, tried to take control of the streets by selling dope, but instead found that the dope controlled him. Although society seemed determined to trap and destroy Robbie as it did Garth, Robbie willingly fell into the trap set for him. No one has to fall into this trap, the Wideman story tells us. No one has to fall into any trap that is set by blaming others for the mistakes we make, is what each writer's story tells us, including my own.

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