Brother Dark Path - Essay on John Edgar Wideman's Book Brothers and Keepers

Brother Dark Path - Essay on John Edgar Wideman's Book Brothers and Keepers

On the year of 1941, at Washington, D.C the African –American writer John Edgar Wideman was born. Widemen spent most of his youth in Homewood. Later, he earned a BA at the University of Pennsylvania. After graduating, he became a professor at two universities; University of Wyoming and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Moreover, Wideman wrote both fiction and non-fiction novels. One of the non-fiction novels is "Brothers and Keepers" which shows the significance of Wideman's style and strategies of delivering the different paths that Wideman and his brother "Robby" chose.

Writing a story to succeed as book and to solve family problems is what John Edgar Wideman is going through in his "Our Time" selection. In Widemen's selection he distinguishes between all affairs that effect his brother Robby's direr life. He also addresses comprehensible events explaining why Robby's life ends in miserable state and how Robby broken condition effects both Wideman and his mother. By tackling himself and his brother's problems and brings three voices of story characters, he cans imaging the whole picture to himself and to the readers then it might help him out to resolve them.

"Our Time" selection has many elements that help Wideman to express the details of his brother's story and the problems that Widemen faces as a writer. In addition, Wideman uses variety of narrations in his selection; starting with the death of Robby's best friend Garth and ending with Robby's voice inprison. Widemen illustrates three significant events that effect his brother wildness way; the death of Robby's best friend Garth, transferring to Shadyside and Robby birth terrible day. Wideman tries to draw and propose these events by starting with Garth death which actually is in the middle of the other two events. This event of Garth's death is associated with the first and final events and they are contrary to chronological aspects with the purpose of letting the reader to be eager to know, what are the past event and the future one statements since the reader will begin from the middle event. In other word, it's to attract the reader and in the same time to link this middle key event that is narrative by his mother voice with the other events that will mention in his brother voice later. Also, he interrupts both his mother and his brother voices by adding his voice to the story and point up statements deeply with eloquent idioms, but sometime he use simple and direct words like an easy story teller.

Wideman employs his mother and his brother voices to mention Garth's death who's the best friend of Robby and the main man in his life. Garth is the leader of gangsters who's dying from unknown disease. Robby is a member of these gangsters and these gangsters are stealer, drugs dealers and hooked men. Robby is deeply affected by the death of his best friend Garth. Robby blames the doctors that Garth go to them many times, but they misdiagnose his illness state and at the end they neglected him on hospital to die. Wideman states "Remembered Garth weak and helpless in the bed and the doctors and nurses flitting around in the halls ,jiving the other patients,ignoring Gar like his wasn't there" (p.661). Actually, Robby blames the whole society, since there is racial bias against black people in that time.Wideman mentions by his brother voice, "The man killed Garth…but ain’t no crime been committed. Just one of those things. You know everybody makes mistakes. And a dead nigger ain't really such a big mistake when you think about it…Wind up killing some innocent person or wasting another nigger. Shucks. That doctor ought to get a medal" (p.662).Wideman writing strategy in this incident is to give you an idea about how far Garth's death is deeply effecting Robby believes of life associated with people injustice, which eventually will effect Robby's mother believes in the same manner.

Wideman brings the previous facts by his mother voice, regarding Robby best friend in order to connect them with Robby grief status and the injustice that cause Garth to dead. Furthermore, Wideman appears his worry about his mother who changes her look to the life, people and society in a negative way which has been influenced by her son Robby and Garth death. According to Wideman, "The long view supplied the same ugly picture as the short. She had an enemy now. It was that revealed truth that had given the conversation its impact. They had killed Garth, and his dying had killed part of her son" (p.666). This new vision of his mother gives Wideman a sense of losing his old and kind Homewood represented by old kindness of his mother. Wideman himself writes, " I was hearing a new voice. Something about the voice struck me then, but I missed what was novel and crucial. I'd lost my Homewood ear" (p.671). During his mother and brother suffering, Wideman wasn't there for them. So, he brings together all testimonies from his mother and brother and seeks to see where can he fits in order to solve particular problems by writing it down. Also, by presenting both his brother and his mother voices, he would take their place and then tries to find solution for their sorrow status.Wideman complicates matters further when he writes, "I wasn't around for all that. Didn't want to know how bad things were for him. Worrying about my brother was tough enough. I could identify with her grief, I could blame my brother. An awful situation, but simple too. My role, my responsibilities and loyalties were clear. The wildness was to blame…so I just had to help my mother survive the worst of it, then everything would be alright" (p.664).

Again, Wideman makes use of his brother voice to clarify how Robby is affected by the moving of his family from Shadyside back to Homewood while he's in high school. When his family makes a decision to move from Shadyside, Robby mother was extremely worried about her son Robby. His mother is concerned about living in Homewood where is black people live and street troubles exist. Wideman mentions this issue by his brother voice, "I overheard Mommy and Geraldine and Sissy talking in Freed's kitchen. They was talking about us moving from Shadyside back to Homewood. The biggest thing they was worried about was me…I could tell they was scared. Specially Mom…Not so much the place but how I'd act if I got out there in the middle of it. She already knew I was wild, hard to handle…She could see trouble coming…And she was right" (p.678).His mother's fears is correct, regards Robby difficulty to adapt to the bad street environment because she knows how wild is he and difficult to be handle. Moreover, Robby is the only family member who first lives in the Shadyside that where white neighborhood and couple of black family lived peacefully. However, his other family members are first live in Homewood where street troubles exist. This situation doesn't give Robby a chance to adapt in Homewood. Eventually, this reality gives early strong impression to Robby mind. He says to his brother John, "black was like the forbidden fruit...what was so different about a black neighborhood" (p. 677). In addition, Robby in Shadyside was forbidden to go to a corner near Homewood ever since then, he's very curious about that side. Wideman write by his brother voice, " Even when we went to Freed's in Homewood , Geraldine and them never let me go no farther than the end of the block" (p.677).All these facts are poured in one way that is Robby will be driven to a terrible turning point in his life.

One implication of Wideman's difficulty is listening to his brother in his term. Wideman apparently assumed that his usual tendency is to listen to himself as writer rather than listing to others words. He habitually makes use of fiction in order to reach a promised story. On the one hand, he is afraid to exploit his brother story and changes some facts. On the other hand, he tends to his habit as writer in order to succeed in such a story. Thus, he still maintain to give attention to Robby words to shape the reality of his book and the important thing is to see and learn his brother in his terms and that will definitely help him to learn his brother story. Wideman refers to the previous by saying, "The hardest habit to break, since it was the habit of lifetime, would be listening to myself listening to him. That habit would destroy any chance of seeing my brother in his terms; and seeing him in his terms, learning his terms, seemed the whole point of learning his story" (p.672). In addition to the difficulty that he faced, Wideman points out that he wants his brother to know what he’d been thinking, in order to become closer to him. His brother exposes his reality, but Wideman hides some of his own. Wideman himself writes, "Our shared roots and destinies. I wanted him to know what I'd been thinking and how that thinking was drawing me closer to him. I was banging on the door of his privacy. I believed I'd shed some of my own" (p.674). In fact, when John meets his brother in the prison for first time, they are like stranger for each other; the only thing they are sharing is the same blood as brothers. Wideman solves this issue by sharing the common history, believes and values that are improved in the privacy of individuals.

In the third event which is the day of Robby’s birth on December 29, the writer here mentions many bad incidents coincide with the day of Robby’s birth and they happen almost every year near that date, which gives deep pessimism about this date for both Robby and his mother. His grandfathers died on December 28 and his grandmother died on December 29. His sister lost her baby in the beginning of January. Moreover, his birthday close to Christmas, which is inconsistent with his birthday due to everybody, would focus their attention to the Christmas rather than his birthday. More than that, at the end of 1975, Robby is accused by robbery and murder. Wideman states, " In 1975, the year of the robbery and murder, Robby was on the run when his birthday fell. My mother was sure he wouldn't survive the deadly close of the year" (p.684). After all these bad circumstances which associated with the date of Robby’s birth, Wideman carries out an important incident that happens on Robby birthday by Robby voice. Robby's confession about the stolen TV which is owned by John. This case happens when all of the family was together to celebrate with Robby birthday after Christmas. He’s planning to steal the TV in that night with a help from his friend Henry. Later on, after They steal the TV, they face many terrible issues trying to seal the TV in very cold weather and to get money to buy dope. Furthermore, cups catch Robby with dope in his jacket and then put him in jail and he tries to suicide there, but one of the cup prevent that from happening. Robby regrets whet he did and he is shamed from his brother John from this heinous deed, even John didn’t know about who's the stealer. In Wideman's view of his brother confession, "It's still one the worst days in my life even after all this other mess. Jail .Running. The whole bit. Been waiting to tell you this a long time…I'm still shamed, but there it is. You know that TV of you all's got stolen from Mommy's. Well, I did it. Was me and Henry" (p.684).In all previous incidents, Wideman joints these incidents together that occurred on the date of his brother's birthday than he links this main incident from Robby side to illustrate the bad days that encounter with Robby's birthday and show the awful stealing operation from relatives which frighten his mother by breaking her home peace. This writing moves is more attractive to the reader due to its sad events concurrences and by mentioning another main event which reveals contrary outcome between the kindness and love represented by Robby's family, and the unexpected result of Robby wildness side that encounter that kindness and love with ignorance and furthermore by stealing from his own family.

From my perspective point as student, John Edgar Wideman provides me with variety of useful writing moves. From employing his voice and other voice characters to organizing the main events in attractive way. Although some might object that these events are ordered in contrary to the chronology, I would reply that arranging events in psychological way is more magnetized and attractable than arranging them in chronological way which might be predictable. From reading and rereading his essay, it'll change your way of thinking and let you adapt to deep difficult eloquent idioms and phrases with new vocabularies that you'll learn. You would think that it'll enhance your writing approach by giving you wide range of thinking. Actually, I never experience such an English class level since high school period. High school way of English writing is very poor compared with my current class. I quickly learn many thing from this class during the first 20 days. Overall, then, I believe that this writing approach will help me out to think critically and to gain knowledge of writing styles and then I could shape them to bring out my own style.