The Other Wes Moore
How do two boys with the same name who live within the same community end up with lives on two completely different paths? The author, Wes Moore, begins life in a tough Baltimore neighborhood and ends up a Rhodes Scholar, Wall Streeter, White House Fellow, etc. The other Wes Moore starts in the same place in Baltimore but ends up in prison FOR LIFE. The parallels in their stories aren’t quite as compelling as they may appear initially. For example, the other Wes Moore spends a number of his developmental years living in the Bronx, NY, whereas his namesake never leaves Baltimore and its suburbs.
Though Wes Moore is shipped off to military school (after his antisocial behavior in a privileged private school), his educational path is decidedly better than his namesake’s because of his mother’s ambition. Wes Moore hit a quick reality check when he was sent to military school. He stated, “I knew my mother was considering sending me away, but I never thought she’d actually do it” (87). Wes Moore, in a sense, thought he was too good for military school. But, he soon learned he needed to adapt to his new environment because he was going to be there for a while.
During the time Wes Moore was in military school, he stated, “That’s when I started to understand that I was in a different environment. Not simply because I was in the middle of Pennsylvania instead of the Bronx or Baltimore. It was a different psychological environment, where my normal expectations were inverted, where leadership was honored and class clowns were ostracized. ” (Moore 96) The other Wes Moore doesn’t have this much support or as much “push” from home, although his mother was encouraging of his positive development.
Further, the other Wes Moore has an older brother who in trying to dissuade him from pursuing his own example of a life in the streets ends up encouraging him to do just that. Moore quoted, “He –Wes- loved his brother but had learned to ignore his occasional ‘do as I say, not as I do’ tirades. Tony, by contrast, was desperately trying to give his little brother information he thought he needed, the kind of information that Tony never got.
Tony felt his little brother’s life could be saved, even if he felt his own had already, at age fourteen, passed the point of no return. ” (Moore 27). On the other hand, Wes Moore has no such close relation or relationship dragging him down. While Wes Moore was able to change his situation and begin to make better decisions, the other Wes Moore was never able to accomplish such task. During one of their conversations, the incarcerated Wes said, “From everything you told me, both of us did some pretty wrong stuff when we were younger. And both of us had second chances.
But if the situation or the context where you make the decisions don’t change, then second chances don’t mean much, huh? ” (66). In the same conversation, about ? of the way into the book Moore realized an important aspect in life, “I sat back, allowing Wes’s words to sink in. Then I responded, ‘I guess it’s hard sometimes to distinguish between second chances and last chances. ‘” (Moore 67). There comes about a discussion on when Wes Moore and the other Wes Moore think they became “men”.
Wes Moore thinks he became a man when he, “First felt accountable to people other than myself. When I first cared that my action mattered to people other than just me”(64). The same Wes later explains that he had, “No official ceremony that brought my childhood to an end. Instead, crisis or other circumstances presented me with adult-sized responsibilities and obligations that I had to meet one way or another. For some boys, this happens later–in their late teens or even twenties–allowing them to grow organically into adulthood.
But some of us, the promotion to adulthood, or at least its challenges, is so jarring, so sudden, that we enter into it unprepared and might be undone by it”(64). Still, all of this would be minor were it not for the reality that Wes Moore is far more adept at relaying his namesake’s historical story than at forcing the latter’s world in the present, especially the part that begins after he is convicted of perpetrating a life-changing crime. The other Wes Moore never quite comes to life as vividly as does Wes Moore, so he is not a particularly fascinating figure with whom to compare and contrast.