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Deviance In Society: Wideman's Our Time

1664 words - 7 pages

Preface
Often, when a story is told, it follows the events of the protagonist. It is told in a way that justifies the reasons and emotions behind the protagonist actions and reactions. While listening to the story being cited, one tends to forget about the other side of the story, about the antagonist motivations, about all the reasons that justify the antagonist actions.

Deviance in Society
Wideman’s writing is uniquely phrased. It changes voices along the way to explore different sides and perspectives, leaving the readers wondering about basic concepts. When I finished reading “Our Time” I was confused about a lot of its aspects. Because Robby is displayed as the main protagonist as well as the main antagonist of the story, I was confused about Robby’s standings. Is Robby a criminal or a victim? What was John trying to say when he shared this story? Can someone be a criminal and a victim at the same time?
The story appears to be revolving around deviance. Deviance is defined as the violation of norms, whether the infraction is as grave as murder or as trivial as driving over the speed limit. However, what makes something deviant is not the act itself, but the reaction to the act. In this story, both Robby and John are deviants. John violated his society norms by doing something that is not expected of him. He became a scholar, married a white woman. This is not a bad thing in itself but the way John accomplished it is not good either. John pushed away his family and deliberately distanced himself from his Homewood community. This suggests that deviance is neutral in itself; it can be negative or positive. It is also relative, as it can be positive from one side and negative from the other. People often think of deviance as a negative thing. We cannot blame them because one of the specific forms of deviance is known as crime, the violation of rules that have been written into law. This is the deviance Robby was associated with. One might think that because crime is definitely an immoral act, Robby is guilty for sure. While there is no way denying Robby's guilt, we must consider what lead him to deviate the way he did.
There are many factors that lead the individual towards committing crimes. One of those factors is association. There is a theory called the differential association theory -developed by Edwin Sutherland- that states: From the different groups we associate with, we learn to deviate from or conform to society’s norms. The groups one associates with give him messages about conformity and deviance. This is somewhat the case with Robby. The group he associated with in Homewood certainly influenced him towards some of his later actions. Perhaps it was not as strong as to lead him to murder but it sure is a starting point. Family also plays an important part in teaching the individual attitudes. Robby might had received some mixed messages between his family and his friends but he ends up with more of one than...

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