1 In the essay "A Brother's Murder," Brent Staples writes about his younger brother, Blake, who took a very different path in life than Staples did. 2 The essay starts with a phone call in which Staples learns that Blake has been murdered, shot six times by a former friend (517). The essay goes on to tell about the conditions in which Blake grew up. The neighborhood in which the brothers lived was violent, and young men grew into dangerous adults. Staples recalls a conversation he overheard there between two Vietnam veterans, in which one of them said how much he preferred to fight with young men from the inner city, who wear "their manhood on their sleeves." They weren't afraid to fight, believing that violence proved they were real men (518).
The author leaves the neighborhood to go to college, and he never returns. Blake, however, stays, and the author recalls a visit home when he sees that his brother has been transformed and now hangs out with drug dealers and gangs (518). When Staples notices a wound on his brother's hand, Blake shrugs it off as "kickback from a shotgun" (519).
The author wants to help his brother and makes a date to see him the next night (519). Blake does not show up, and the author returns to Chicago, where he lives. Sometime later, he gets the phone call that announces Blake's death and regrets that he had not done something to help his brother.
"A Brother's Murder" is a moving and sad story about how men growing up in the inner city are destroyed. Although the essay was written in 1986, its message is at least as true today as it was more than twenty years ago. Staples shows how his brother is sucked into the routine violence of the streets, shooting and being shot because that is what he knows, and that is how a man shows he is a man.
4 Today, thousands of young men live this life and die before they are thirty. This essay makes me wonder why this continues, but it also