The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace

The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace Themes

Themes and Colors
“Fronting” Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Education and the School System Theme Icon
Privilege Theme Icon
Crime Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

One can’t talk about The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace without talking about a word: “fronting.” Robert Peace, the protagonist, uses this slang word many times; in a nutshell, it means concealing or exaggerating certain aspects of one’s personality in order to fit in with different kinds of people. (It’s worth noting that fronting is similar to code-switching, a better-known term. However, “fronting” covers a wider range of behavior than “code-switching,” which…

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In The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, Jeff Hobbs often takes the view that Robert Peace is the architect of his own downfall But in other ways, Hobbs argues, Robert is a victim of racism throughout his life. Over the course of the book, Hobbs examines the racial prejudice, both personal and structural, that exists in all sectors of modern American society. In doing so, he shows how racism, much of it…

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The majority of The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace takes place in a school setting: first Mt. Carmel, the private elementary school Robert Peace attends, then St. Benedict’s Prep, his high school, and finally Yale University, where he goes to college. In many ways, all three schools share a common mission: even though they’re very different, they’re all designed to help their students succeed by preparing them for a successful, rewarding adult life…

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The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace isn’t just about Robert Peace. It’s also an examination of the effects of racial and socioeconomic privilege. Jeff and Robert, the two principle characters in the book, are very different people. Jeff comes from a wealthy, white, and highly privileged family of Yale alumni, lives with his two loving, supporting parents, and grows up never having to worry about food or money. During Robert’s underprivileged childhood…

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One of the most important and most nuanced themes of the book is crime, particularly the sale of illegal drugs (and the various crimes related to their sale). Too often, people portray crime in one of two ways. Either crime is a reflection of the basic inequalities in society, or it’s a reflection of the bad decisions that criminals make. Put another way, crime is either something that criminals are driven to do because they’re…

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