The Other Wes Moore

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Mary Character Analysis

Mary is the mother of Wes and Tony. Only 16 when she becomes pregnant with Tony, she is nonetheless determined to get her education and is the first person in her family to enroll in college. However, when her Pell Grant is terminated, she is forced to drop out of Johns Hopkins University and return to work full-time as a medical assistant. When Wes is a child, Mary is still young enough to go out dancing, and she has another baby a year before Tony and Wes become fathers themselves.

Mary Quotes in The Other Wes Moore

The The Other Wes Moore quotes below are all either spoken by Mary or refer to Mary. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Luck vs. Choice Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Spiegel & Grau edition of The Other Wes Moore published in 2011.
Chapter 1 Quotes

Johns Hopkins University was only five miles from where Mary grew up, but it might as well have been a world away. To many in Baltimore, Johns Hopkins was the beautiful campus you could walk past but not through. It played the same role that Columbia University did for the Harlem residents who surrounded it, or the University of Chicago did for the Southside. It was a school largely for people from out of town, preppies who observed the surrounding neighborhood with a voyeuristic curiosity when they weren't hatching myths about it to scare freshmen. This city wasn't their home. But after completing her community college requirements, Mary attempted the short but improbable journey from the neighborhood to the campus. Her heart

jumped when she received her acceptance letter. It was a golden ticket to another world.

Related Characters: Wes Moore (Moore/The Author) (speaker), Mary
Related Symbols: Johns Hopkins University
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:

Moore has introduced Wes’ mother, Mary, who is the first in her family to enroll in college. After earning her associate’s degree from the Community College in Baltimore, she moves on to fulfill her “longtime” dream of earning a bachelor’s. In this passage, Moore describes the tense relationship between Johns Hopkins University—a prestigious institution located in Baltimore—and the city that surrounds it. It is not proximity that separates Mary’s world from the world of Johns Hopkins, but rather race, poverty, and other forms of social inequality. Although there is no physical barrier telling Mary that she doesn’t “belong” on the Johns Hopkins campus, other, more subtle signs indicate that it is a world for white “preppies” and not single, black teenage mothers from West Baltimore.

Mary’s miraculous acceptance in spite of this barrier indicates that such barriers can be overcome, and foreshadows Moore’s acceptance to Johns Hopkins later in the book. However, although Moore describes Mary’s admission as “a golden ticket” in this passage, the reality turns out not to be so magical. The forces dividing the elite world of Johns Hopkins and the impoverished reality of West Baltimore turn out to be more stubborn than Mary anticipates.

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Mary Character Timeline in The Other Wes Moore

The timeline below shows where the character Mary appears in The Other Wes Moore. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: Is Daddy Coming with Us?
Luck vs. Choice Theme Icon
Friendship, Family, and Brotherhood Theme Icon
Inclusion vs. Exclusion Theme Icon
Race, Inequality, and Injustice Theme Icon
The narrative switches to focus on Wes’s family. Wes’s mother, Mary, tells him to pack his things for a trip to stay with his paternal grandmother,... (full context)
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Friendship, Family, and Brotherhood Theme Icon
Inclusion vs. Exclusion Theme Icon
Race, Inequality, and Injustice Theme Icon
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Wes feels protective of Mary, as his father has never been around to support her; meanwhile, Wes’s older brother Tony... (full context)
Luck vs. Choice Theme Icon
Friendship, Family, and Brotherhood Theme Icon
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Wes watches Mary as she gets ready to go out dancing, which she often does to relieve stress.... (full context)
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Having learned of Mary’s dilemma, Wes offers to get a job to help out. Mary laughs and tells him... (full context)
Chapter 2: In Search of Home
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...and Wes wakes up to the sound of the phone ringing. It’s Tony, asking where Mary is. Tony is very protective of Wes, although Wes doesn’t see him often as Tony... (full context)
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...Wes calls Tony’s father to pick him up; it is only many years later that Mary finds out her son was arrested. (full context)
Chapter 3: Foreign Ground
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...a drug deal gone wrong. Wes has been forced to repeat the 6th grade, which Mary worries is the first sign that her son is headed down the same path as... (full context)
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Wes feels envious of Tony’s new, expensive clothes, and begs Mary to let him buy some. Mary replies that Tony may have a flashy wardrobe, but... (full context)
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Friendship, Family, and Brotherhood Theme Icon
...planning to skip school and have a cookout with Woody and their other friends. After Mary leaves for work, Wes searches for change in her bedroom, only to accidentally find some... (full context)
Chapter 4: Marking Territory
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...him he’s become a popular neighborhood DJ, which is the same story he’s been telling Mary. Unlike Mary, however, Tony doesn’t believe him, and he asks Wes again and again. Wes... (full context)
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Tony announces that he is giving up and leaves. Mary tends to her younger son’s wounds, but Wes is inconsolable. He wants desperately to be... (full context)
Chapter 5: Lost
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Back in Maryland, Wes has slowly grown used to his new suburban neighborhood, although he still misses the... (full context)
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...little brother’s first birthday, Tony indirectly reveals that Alicia is pregnant. On learning this news, Mary takes a deep breath before offering everyone cake. Meanwhile, Wes’s approaching fatherhood fails to stop... (full context)
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...girl is hysterical and threatens to call the police, but Wes feels no regret. Inside, Mary asks her son what has happened, but Wes simply shuts himself in the bathroom and... (full context)
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The police arrive at Wes’s house and immediately arrest him while Mary shouts at him through tears. Mary asks him if he shot Ray, but Wes does... (full context)
Chapter 7: The Land That God Forgot
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...her too much of prison. Meanwhile, Wes wonders how he will be able to support Mary, Alicia, Cheryl, and his four kids on the minuscule salary from Job Corps. Wes looks... (full context)
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...He is inspired by his desire to provide a better life for his children and Mary, and not to end up like Tony, who is perpetually in and out of prison.... (full context)
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...home. Sitting in his kitchen, Wes despairs; Cheryl is still using drugs and Alicia and Mary don’t have enough money to look after the kids. At the Job Corps campus it... (full context)
Chapter 8: Surrounded
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The phone at Mary’s house has been ringing for three minutes nonstop, but she ignores it. She has watched... (full context)
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...of their own.” They capture the first two suspects within two days of the shooting. Mary watches as the news reporter announces that the final two suspects—Tony and Wes—are still on... (full context)
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...both Baltimore and Philadelphia officers present as well as ATF and FBI officials. Back in Maryland, the Baltimore PD rejoice at the news that Tony and Wes have been caught, while... (full context)
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...all control over his fate. He has waited almost a year to be extradited to Maryland from Pennsylvania for his trial. Tony was identified as the shooter and pleaded guilty in... (full context)
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...generation above who believed that they did only to have that chance taken away, like Mary and her Pell Grant. As someone who did manage to get several breaks, Moore feels... (full context)
Epilogue
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Meanwhile, Mary still works in medical technology while raising six children: three of Wes’s kids, her niece... (full context)