Jamilyn Smith Lisa Dawson English 101, Section 20 Wideman Paper Final Paper The Cause and Effect of Life Over the years of life, we as individuals grow, learn, and adapt to numerous things and those are the effects of certain causes. If we were to look at where we are in life and deeply evaluated our current status, we could ultimately find the causes to how and who we are. John Edgar Wideman wrote a paper called “Our Time”, which shows the true relationship between cause and effects not with just one person but with multiple people and how one cause effected them all greatly and changed their lives.

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In John Wideman’s paper, we learn of a man named Garth. Garth is an african american male, who knew everyone and everyone knew him, especially the Wideman family. Garth was an average man who enjoyed the simple things in life. He was an easy-go-lucky kind of man and was well respected within the community, but there was one thing off. Garth was ill and was treated at the hospital multiple times but every time, he was released early. Then that one day came where Garth would no longer smile or even awake.

Garth’s death was the cause to everyone’s slow destruction and self realization. His death effected many but none more so then Robby Wideman. Robby was John’s younger brother and a man that was great friends with Garth. Garth’s death was the cause that effected Robby the worse. Robby ended up joining a gang and ultimately in the end, ended up in jail with another’s death on his conscience and a robbery on his record. Wideman’s story is much like Mary Pratt’s speech of “The Contact Zone” and one specific topic is that of John Wideman’s paper is an autoethonography.

To properly describe what an autoethonography is, we must first define what a contact zone is. A contact zone is “social space where cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each other” (487). Mary Pratt later goes on to describe what autoethonography is and according to her, autoethonography is “a text in which people undertake themselves to describe themselves in ways that engage with representations others have made of them” (487). Wideman’s paper is much like an autoethonography because it is comparing and describing the lives of three people.

He talks about not just his brother or Garth, but also of himself and their mother’s view of the events that took place. He wrote about how the things that happened and how they effected him but he also wrote about how those events caused him to look into himself and detach himself and just tell everyone else’s story without him mixing in his own views. John wrote the stories of others and it showed the gathering of different views and opinions, which is much like being an autoethonography but then again, it lacks any clashing that should occur in a contact zone.

John Wideman’s story shares another example from Pratt’s speech, and that is the element of transculturation. According to Pratt, transculturation is “a process in which members of a subordinated or marginal groups select and invent from materials transmitted by a dominant or metropolitan culture” (491). Wideman’s paper could be a piece of transcultural writing because he tended to phase out of his story and speak directly to the reader. He is trying to have the reader understand the culture, the times, and how people were as a black minority.

He wanted the reader to fully understand what it was that he was going through as a black male whose brother was in jail and whose mother lived the simple life. It could also be said that just Robby’s story is transcultural because of the fact that he joined and followed a gang. He took from the gang and applied it to himself. Violence, egocentric, and having the sense of being invincible while having the gang protection all affected his life and who he became.

He was still his own individual but the influences of the gang life wore off on him, which in the end was a large influence on his decisions that he made that put him in jail. Another reason that this piece of literature could be considered transcultural, is just by all the little stories that are comprised into one big paper. His view, Robby’s story, and their mother’s reaction. They all tell the same story from Garth being sick, to dying, to robby being in jail but with different twists.

John was having issues just tearing himself personally away and looking at this as just an interview; Robby joined a gang, killed a man, and committed a crime; and their mother, became a bitter and hard woman. Though Wideman’s paper could be considered a product of the contact zone through Pratt’s speech, he can also go against the grains of what Pratt says. Just to play the devil’s advocate, John’s paper could be considered his own writing. Pratt said that a contact zone is “social space where cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each other” (487). ” There is no clashing with Wideman’s story.

He is telling not only his views, but other people’s views that he interviewed. At one point in the story, John is at the jail; interviewing Robby. While there, he makes a point in telling us, the readers, that: “The hardest habit to break, since it was the habit of a lifetime, would be listening to myself listen to him. That habit would destroy any chance of seeing my brother on his terms; and seeing him in his terms, learning his terms, seemed the whole point of learning his story” (672). What John was talking about was the fact that he was there to learn.

He put aside his views so that he could understand Robby’s side of things. That showed the lack of clashing within John’s story. If he had kept to his story and showed the difference’s more and emphasized the clash then the story would have met with Pratt’s definition of a “contact zone”. All of these stories co-inside with each other and when one falls within their tale, the other stories pick up the lost detail or help the reader fill in a blank that was possibly left from the story before hand. A great example of this would be the fit between his story and his mother’s.

He was working on a degree in journalism, then got a job, started a family, and became successful. Whereas his mother, watched her other son join a gang and slowly deteriorate from the man he was. She tried to help the best she could by bailing Robby out time after time, and was always being a loving mother but while John was reaching for the stars, his mother was trying to dig Robby out of the hole that became his life. John wrote about his happiness and how he came back home to see his mother and then we learn of her side and how she struggled.

Wideman and his mother’s story show the same amount of time that passed but the events that took place for the two of them were very different but that is what made the meshing and flowing of the stories work out so great. Wideman’s story spins together and flows smoothly, whereas Pratt was just explaining different elements of how a contact zone is a better word than that of community. His story was more of a partial application of Pratt and showed how some of her lecture could very well be applied but there is still something’s that need to be redefined.

Wideman wrote a story of cause and effect and Mary Pratt established a lecture of redefinition of our terminology of community. Both applied to Wideman’s story but it still goes back to cause and effect but also a bit of human error, that you cannot help by sympathizes with on some level. Garth’s death was the trigger cause and the hardships that hit the Wideman’s was the devastating effects. Robby gains the sympathy of others because he was just lost in this world and wanted a place to belong. John Wideman worked with his story to just tell it how it was.

He wanted people to listen to him and hear what he had to say. He spoke up as a minority and Mary Pratt’s lecture helped re-establish the depth to which he was trying to speak of. The story of Garth and the Wideman’s will go on for many years to help people learn about how one event could truly effect a person’s life and lead them to either success, like John, or lead to failure, like Robby. Works Cited Bartholomae, David, and Tony Petrosky. Ways of Reading: an Anthology for Writers. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martins, 2011. Print.


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