The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace is a biography that captures the story of a young man from the rough, crime ridden neighborhood of East Orange, New Jersey. Robert Peace later defies all odds and goes on to Yale, but is later shot after he had slipt into the drug trade back in his hometown, at the age of thirty. The point of view of author Jeff Hobbs allows the reader to understand Robert Peace’s adaption to new cultures. The technique of point of view is often used to tell a story through a person’s eyes. The first person perspective of Jeff Hobbs creates a fantastic view on Robert Peace’s life. Their relationship started in college, when they became roommates at Yale, and later best friends. Hobbs is from the suburbs of Pennsylvania, a small private school, and a family of Yale graduates. With Robert’s mother working endless hour shifts and his father in jail for manslaughter, no one expected him to shine. But instead, he ventured off to one of the most prestigious universities in the country. The contrast between the two allows the reader to better understand how hard it was for Robert Peace to adapt to Yale and other cultures.
During the first weeks at Yale, while author Jeff Hobbs got to know Rob (the name he was most commonly referred to as), he noticed many differences between him and the other students at Yale. Hobbs describes this in many scenes throughout the book. “I didn’t know him well but I appreciated the quietude that surrounded him. Any other table in the dining hall carried the threat of having to perform for new acquaintances, to prove how clever or worldly or socially connected you were in the context of conversations about social policy. With Rob, there was no judging” (p.135) This quote shows the distance between the cultures Rob and Hobbs grew up in. Hobbs appreciates the ability to step out of the world he has known for his whole life and speak with someone who doesn’t hold him to such standards. In addition, the quote demonstrates the contrast between him and regular “Yalies” and is not adapting to the common attitude of these students. He holds the same demeanor he had in East Orange. The perspective of Hobbs helps the reader to understand how different it is for him to be around Rob, along with how detached Rob is from other Yale students.
In the first months at Yale, Rob had a girlfriend. This girl was annoying and frustrating to Rob. It always perplexed him why he went out with her. “I asked him once, with carefully premeditated phrasing, ‘What do you and Zina do for fun?’... He said, ‘She’s a real woman, not like these other Yalie b*tches’” (p. 137) This shows how Hobbs thinks that Rob sees this girl as someone he wants to spend his whole life with. He thinks this is a real girlfriend to Rob. In light of this, Hobbs doesn’t understand why they go out, because Zina is such a pest. However, Rob’s response shows how Zina, a black woman, is an outlet for him. A way for Rob to not forget his roots and avoid assimilating into the Yale community. Hobbs’s perspective gives the reader a better understanding into how Rob is reacting to a new culture, while it isn’t that different for Jeff.
There have been many reviews surrounding The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace. Multiple mentioned the perspective of Hobbs as influential on the readers understanding, but Kirkus Reviews perfectly summarized this. “Hobbs contrasts his personal relationship with Robert with a cutting critique of university life, for the privileged and less so, capturing the absurd remove that ‘model minority’ and working-class students experience.” This shows how Jeff Hobbs was able to step back, use his personal experiences, and paint a perspective of Rob’s life as a student at Yale. It demonstrates how Hobbs was able to accurately compate Rob’s life to the “common privileged” student at Yale. In addition, he noted how hard it is for minorities to fit in at schools this. It also touches on Hobbs’s critique of Rob’s transition, by comparing the privileged and the less off.
After Yale, Rob and Hobbs grew apart. Rob found the drug trade back in East Orange and Hobbs struggled to write and sell new books. This quote shows how Hobbs viewed their changing and struggling lives. “The distance between us and the maleness of our friendship precluded revealing anything that truly matter, and at the time I was too naive to know that if you were friends with someone - truly friends - then you told them what was going on... Instead I thought that by concisely presenting the most easygoing and put-together version of myself, I was being ‘all good’. Really, I was fronting. And Rob was going the same.” (p. 295-296) This quote shows how both of their new cultures has separated them from each other. The perspective of Hobbs accurately displays how he views why they have changed and how they have struggled to adapt to new worlds. Hobb’s opinion conveys how they have moved on, and have new lives to attend to. It demonstrates how they are embarrassed that they have not done more with their life.
Later, Rob ventures off to Brazil. Hobbs use his own opinion, along with an objective one to describe Rob’s comfort level there. “He didn’t stand out for being black and wearing a skully, as he had at Yale.” (p.222) This quote shows how Hobbs saw Rob at Yale. Unfortunately, he stood out and didn’t fit in. As an outsider to Rob’s world, and an insider to the normal Yale student, Hobbs’s perspective here helps the reader to better understand how Rob fit in at Yale. It also conveys how he can step back and write from an objective point of view to describe an atmosphere. Despite not being in Brazil at the time, through conducted research he is able to properly inform the reader about the experience of a black man in Brazil.
This structure sets up a perfect illustration of many atmospheres through the book. The perspective of Jeff Hobbs helps to convey how transitioning to a new culture is so difficult for people that have never seen or witnessed it. Without this message, the reader wouldn’t understand how different of a change it was for the privileged students at Yale and the small number of students from poor backgrounds. The point of view of Hobbs also demonstrates how people tend to lean on the culture and community they know best. Hobbs notices this first hand and tackles the idea, through his perspective and an objective one. Coming from two different backgrounds, the journey and background of Hobbs helps the reader better understand Robert Peace’s struggle to transition into new environments.
"Kirkus Review." Kirkus Reviews. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Jan. 2015. <https://www.kirkusreviews.com/tv/video/kirkus-tv-jeff-hobbs/>.
Hobbs, Jeff. The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League. N.p.: Simon & Schuster, 2014. Print.