In "Our Time," John Wideman bravely dives into the pits of a scorpion society - one that juxtaposes the poor and minorities with the rich and people in power - in an attempt to understand how society affects the lives of each individual in its clutches. Wideman's path is angular to that of his brother, Robby's. They both start off in the same situation, same locale, but their paths stray off to different ends. Wideman attempts to find an explanation for why he was allowed to become successful and his brother, Robby, was sentenced to imprisonment. Wideman's own success and dealing with his own adversaries may not be as blunt as his brother's plight, but it cements the fact that a society can clutch an individual in its claws and hold him or her submissive to its wills - much like a scorpion traps its prey between its claws and stings it into paralysis. John Wideman's own upbringing and decisions concoct an unparallel path from his brother's, giving way to the notion that a society can influence an individual so long as the individual lets it.
"Our Time" takes root after the midnight hours of the Civil Rights Movement, where society is still in the crucial stage of transitioning from an old-age mentality to the one we are living in now. In the northern United States, society is still changing and reforming, and people still harbor a sense of stereotype and racism bought about by recent injustices. In Homewood, Wideman's hometown, change is like a slow moving big wave. You can see it coming in the distance, unaware of how it it really is, but when it comes close you're surprised by the magnitude of it. Wideman tells us his story from a ghetto background, making it clear that there is racia...
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...t's why he became interested in literature, was able to go to college, and even found himself indulged in basketball. On the other side of the spectrum, Robby was aware of his choices as well. Whereas Wideman chose to go down the path we now know for him, Robby chose to make a wrong turn at the crossroads. Robby indicates that he could not be like his siblings - do well in school, be "square" - because he had to do things his own way, stand out. Society can only change a person so much and Wideman's success is a testament to it. He's successful now; he's able to live life on his terms, because he chose to fight back chose to get backup. Wideman's able to look at life on the free side of prison bars because he's freed himself of those chains and shackles. He has emancipated himself from an abyss that many people fall into when they choose to let society win.
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