The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace

by

Jeffrey Hobbs

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The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: Chapter 15 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Robert, Julius, Tavarus, Drew, and Curtis sit together, planning their next move. Curtis has just made a big proposal: that they sell fifty pounds of marijuana, making a profit of $400,000. Julius is nervous about this idea, but Robert is more enthusiastic than he’s been about anything in a while. In the end, the group unanimously agrees to buy the weed through Curtis’s connection and sell it for a big profit.
Robert seems to like the idea of selling a large amount of marijuana and making a big profit all at once. In the past, he’s assumed a lot of risk, much of it needless (for example, when he smuggled marijuana through an airport). Because he’s not worried about the risk, and even seems to welcome it, he’s enthusiastic about the drug deal.
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Robert calls Oswaldo to ask for some money. Oswaldo agrees to give him the money, but adds, “After you pay me back, you and I will never speak again.” Robert agrees. Shortly afterwards, Curtis obtains the fifty pounds of weed. As Robert looks at the product, he wonders if it was worth losing Oswaldo’s friendship.
Robert burns a bridge with his old friend Oswaldo for the sake of his drug deal—apparently, making money is more important to him than his friendship.
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According to the plan, Robert is going to convert the marijuana into top-quality “Sour Diesel” by treating it with butane. This will take lots of work—probably a month of fifteen-hour workdays—but he works hard to enrich the product.
Robert seems to be doing most of the work surrounding the drug deal. This reinforces the perception that Robert is “the Man,” and the leader of his high school friends—but also the one who does most of the work and assumes most of the risk.
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In April, Robert and Ina talk on the phone. Ina is stationed on a naval base in California, and she tells Robert she’s worried about him—she hopes he’s staying safe.
Ina’s concern foreshadows the tragedy that’s about to occur.
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Get the entire The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace LitChart as a printable PDF.
As Robert treats the marijuana, he comes to realize how much work is still ahead of him. He has to package the weed and sell it in small bags. His friends are unwilling to transport the product, since they’re afraid of being arrested. They decide to hire drug mules to reduce their risk. Robert does all the work of recruiting mules.
Again, Robert does the majority of the logistical and chemical work regarding the drug deal, while his friends take more passive roles and still see the same payoff.
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Robert visits Rene in Brooklyn. Rene is a talented artist, and she’s been supporting herself for many years. She wants Robert to move in with her—something that Robert isn’t yet ready to do. Recently, Robert tells Rene, someone was murdered near his home in a drug deal gone wrong.
The passage foreshadows the tragedy that’s about to occur. Robert is surrounded by friends, family, and well-wishers who warn him against becoming a serious drug dealer. But instead of listening to these people, Robert proceeds with his plan.
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Robert recruits four drug mules to sell his product. The weed sells quickly, almost a pound a day. Robert and the others make lots of money, though less than they’d anticipated (since they have to pay employees). However, Robert begins having a problem with one of his mules, a young man named Kamar. Kamar talks about Robert behind his back, making fun of him for his Yale degree. Julius hears Robert yelling at Kamar, but Robert just tells Julius, “Nothing’s going on.” In reality, Robert fires Kamar.
Robert has been careful to conceal his Yale degree from many of his business connections, and the passage reminds reader of why this is: having a Yale degree is a liability among drug dealers, because it makes Robert look like an elite outsider, instead of somebody who can be trusted. Robert’s Yale connection, previously the source of his success as a drug dealer, is now the cause of his downfall.
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As time goes on, Robert begins carrying a handgun. Amin and the Double II Set gang learn from Kamar that Robert has been selling weed, even though he’s technically still working for Amin. Kamar lies and says that Robert has been encroaching on the gang’s turf. Robert finds out that the gang is angry with him. He suspends dealing for a few days, and tries to get in touch with the gang personally.
Robert gets more than he bargained for when he angers a rival gang. As with his plans to get into real estate and go to graduate school, Robert seems not to have calculated the risks involved with selling so much marijuana—and none of his friends was willing to point out these risks, because Robert is so good at “fronting” confidence and capability.
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While Robert tries to straighten things out, he spends time with Jackie. Jackie is contemplating retiring soon. She’s lived through a lot, but she’s not angry. Instead, she just wishes things had worked out differently. She wishes Robert, now aged thirty, had made more of his education. And she wishes Skeet hadn’t been arrested.
Jackie looks back at her life and is filled with regrets. She’s put her son’s interests ahead of her own again and again, and yet she’s been unable to exert the positive influence on Robert that she wanted—mostly, she’s been unable to keep Robert away from the world of drugs.
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By the middle of May, Robert thinks that the danger from the Double II Set gang has subsided. Nevertheless, he continues to carry a gun in his car—something that Raquel Diaz finds outrageous. One weekend, Robert and his old friends have a barbeque, and invite the whole neighborhood. Guests remember Robert seeming unusually quiet.
This passage conveys the calm before the storm: Hobbs subtly gives the sense that a tragedy is about to occur, but at the barbeque, everyone is laid-back and happy.
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Later in May, Robert drives to visit his old Yale friend Sherman Feerick. Sherman has become a successful consultant, and he also runs a camp for at-risk children. Robert explains that he needs work, and suggests that he work as a counselor at Sherman’s camp—Sherman promises to find work for him. Sherman is stunned by how defeated Robert seems: “Too much time has passed,” he thinks, “too many opportunities had come and gone, for Rob Peace to still not have his life figured out.” Had Robert asked him for work just a month earlier, Sherman could have found him a good job.
Even though he’s pursuing this big, risky drug deal, Robert continues to try to find other, more legitimate way to make a living. However, Robert again shows that he’s a victim of his own pride and apathy: had he asked Sherman for work a little earlier, he could have gotten a good job.
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Two days after visiting Sherman, Robert is back in Newark. He spends the evening watching TV with Curtis. Instead of going to bed, he tells Curtis he has some work to do. Suddenly, “they heard a car pull up in the driveway.”
The chapter ends on an ominous note, considering everything Hobbs has written about Robert’s relationship with rival gangs in Newark (and the title of the book itself).
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