John Edgar Wideman's Our Time
5 Pages
1310 Words

How do you tell a story of a boy who was raised right but

turned out wrong? Do you focus on key events during the course of his

life, or do you examine his life in sequence from birth? In his

compelling essay "Our Time”, John Edgar Wideman has the

responsibility of telling the story of the boy who turned out wrong. .

The boy is Widman's younger brother and black sheep of the family

Robby. Wideman uses three voices and three events to tell his brother

Robby's story. The three voices that Wideman brings into his essay to

help his readers understand why his brother "went bad” are the voices

of his brother Robby, his mother, and himself. The three events that

Wideman mingles into his essay to help himself come to an

understanding of his brother and the troubles that plagued him are

the tragic death of Robby's best friend Garth, the family's move to

Shadyshide, (A predominant white neighborhood) and the time of

Robby's birth. Why does Wideman present the three events the way he

does? Is he trying to single out the event that caused Robby's

downfall? Each event has an effect on Robby; an effect that would

steer him towards drugs, crime, and involvement in a murder that

would mean a life sentence in prison. Did Robby have bad luck?

Imagine rolling the dice and seeing snake eyes come up or landing on

the chance spot on the Monopoly board and picking up that little

orange card and reading, Do not pass Go...Do not collect two hundred

dollars...Go Straight to Jail. No, it wasn't bad luck; it started with

During a visit to the prison Robby reassembles Garth's death to

his brother, "Something had crawled inside Garth's belly. The man

said it wasn't nothing. Sold him some aspirins and said he'd be all

right in no time. The man killed Garth”(656). Garth died of a

mysterious disease in the summer of 1975. The tragedy of his best


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