Essay about Oppressive Transformation

Submitted By taycyr
Words: 1394
Pages: 6

Taylor Cyr
Professor Pahigian
ENGL- 110
Oppressive Transformation

“Our Time,” a passage written by John Wideman, expresses the oppressive life of blacks during the 1960’s through the life of his own family. As the story unfolds, Wideman introduces many themes that are important to him in order to relay his message. Many of these themes are introduced through the life of Mrs. Wideman, a dynamic character due to the forces of racism, discrimination, and youngest son Robby’s descent of a life of drug use and crime. The racism and hardships that affect her family cause her to change from an optimistic individual to someone full of spite. Mrs. Wideman was born into the town of Homewood; a close-knit community based on trust and common spiritual belief. Despite the racial discrimination against the race of her family, the French’s were people that were not to be talked down to due the high respect given to her father, John French. Wideman portrays the respect given to his mother by stating, “French girls were church girls, Homewood African Methodist Episcopal Zion Sunday-school-picnic and social-event young ladies” (669). Growing up as a respected African- American made it easy for Mrs. Wideman to evolve into a black women not consumed by racial unfairness. Her willfulness to avoid this aspect allowed her to have a benefit of the doubt personality, which Wideman describes:
You tried on the other person’s point of view. You sought the other, better person in yourself who might talk you into relinquishing for a moment your selfish interest in whatever was at issue. You stopped and considered the long view, possibilities other than the one that momentarily was leading you by the nose. You gave yourself and other people the benefit of the doubt. (666)
Wideman’s portrayal of his mother’s personality shows the reader how open minded and forgiving Mrs. Wideman is; instead of looking at the bad in other people, she worked on making herself a better person. However, due to the death of a close family friend and the downfall of her son following the tragedy, Mrs. Wideman quickly loses the ability to carry through with this outlook on life. The change of character in Mrs. Wideman began with the death of Garth. Garth was a highly praised gang member of Robby’s who became extremely ill and eventually died because of lack of medical attention. The corruption of the health care system is first introduced by the reflection of Mrs. Wideman’s thoughts about the health clinic that misdiagnosed Garth. Mrs. Wideman states:
Shame the way they did that boy. He’d been down to the clinic two or three times but they sent him home. Said he has an infection and it would take care or itself. Something like that anyway. You know how they are down there. Have to be spitting blood to get attention. Then all they give you is a Band- Aid. He went back two times, but they kept telling him the same dumb thing. (665)
Through this reflection, Wideman wants readers to understand the extent of horrible treatment given to blacks at health clinics during this time era. By uncovering these cold-hearted actions done by “professionals,” one may be able to reflect on how this could have a negative effect on the attitudes of blacks. In addition to contributing to this unworthy feeling of blacks during this time era, it also contributed to the hostile attitude Mrs. Wideman develops throughout the passage. After the death of Garth and Mrs. Wideman’s reflection of her thoughts about his death, Wideman notices the drastic change in Mrs. Wideman for the first time. He states:
My mother had that capacity. I’d admired, envied, and benefited infinitely from its presence. As she related the story of Garth’s death and my brother’s anger and remorse, her tone was uncompromisingly bitter. No slack, no margin of doubt was being granted to the forces that destroyed Garth and still pursued her son. She had exhausted her reserves of understanding and compassion. (666)