The Other Wes Moore

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The Other Wes Moore (Wes) Character Analysis

“The other” Wes was also born in Baltimore and is the second child of Mary and the younger half-brother of Tony. Moore’s father, Bernard, is absent throughout his life. Although Tony and Mary make efforts to keep Wes on a responsible path, he ultimately ends up following his older brother into the drug game. Popular with women, Wes has many girlfriends and is the father of two children with Alicia and two with Cheryl. In 2000, he is arrested for the murder of Sergeant Bruce Prothero, which took place during a jewelry store robbery he conducted with Tony. Sentenced to life in prison, Wes converts to Islam and assists Moore in his research for the book.

The Other Wes Moore (Wes) Quotes in The Other Wes Moore

The The Other Wes Moore quotes below are all either spoken by The Other Wes Moore (Wes) or refer to The Other Wes Moore (Wes) . 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:
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). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Spiegel & Grau edition of The Other Wes Moore published in 2011.
Introduction Quotes

The chilling truth is that his story could have been mine. The tragedy is that my story could have been his. Our stories are obviously specific to our two lives, but I hope they will illuminate the crucial inflection points in every life, the sudden moments of decision where our paths diverge and our fates are sealed. It's unsettling to know how little separates each of us from another life altogether.

Related Characters: Wes Moore (Moore/The Author) (speaker), The Other Wes Moore (Wes)
Page Number: xi
Explanation and Analysis:

Moore has explained that the book tells the story of himself and another man named Wes Moore, both born in Baltimore. Yet while the two men’s lives began in a similar way, they diverge drastically; Moore lives a successful life he “never even knew to dream about,” while Wes has murdered a father of five and will spend the rest of his life in prison. Although both men are unique individuals with different personalities and life experiences, Moore emphasizes that they each could have ended up with the other’s destiny. He does this not to excuse Wes’s crime or diminish the importance of the choices each man made, but rather as a way of exploring how each person’s destiny is shaped.

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We definitely have our disagreements––and Wes, it should never be forgotten, is in prison for his participation in a heinous crime. But even the worst decisions we make don't necessarily remove us from the circle of humanity. Wes's desire to participate in this book as a way to help others learn from his story and choose a different way is proof of that.

Related Characters: Wes Moore (Moore/The Author) (speaker), The Other Wes Moore (Wes)
Related Symbols: Prison
Page Number: xiii
Explanation and Analysis:

After Moore discovers Wes’s existence, he writes a letter that sparks a long correspondence between the two men. Moore is astonished to find that telling their stories to one another really does bring the men close and makes Wes’s world seem less alien than it first appeared. In this passage, Moore underlines the sense of common humanity that stretches to Wes despite the fact that Wes has committed a “heinous crime.” Although he doesn’t wish to excuse Wes, Moore is a firm believer in respecting every person as a human being. His words in this passage foreshadow the conversation he has with Mama at the end of the book, in which she explains that she follows the lead of Nelson Mandela in forgiving the crimes of apartheid.

Chapter 2 Quotes

'Wes searched around his room for his football jersey. He played defensive end for the Northwood Rams, one of the best rec football teams in the nation. Wes loved football, and his athletic frame made him a natural. Even if he was just going out to play in the streets with Woody and some other friends, he wore that jersey like a badge of honor. The crimson "Northwood" that blazed across his white jersey gave him a sense of pride, a sense of belonging.”

Related Characters: Wes Moore (Moore/The Author) (speaker), The Other Wes Moore (Wes)
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:

Mary and Wes have moved to Northwood, a safer neighborhood populated by members of the black professional class. Mary is thrilled about the move, and in this passage Moore describes Wes’s increased feelings of belonging as a result of playing football for the Northwood Rams. Thanks to his innate talent, Wes is able to secure a place on the team; however, the prestige of the team means less to him than the simple fact of feeling like he belongs to a community. This moment of hope becomes tragic in light of Wes’s broader trajectory. What would have happened if he had had more opportunities to develop his skills and feel like a valued member of a team?

Part II Interlude Quotes

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 too much, huh?

Related Characters: The Other Wes Moore (Wes) (speaker), Wes Moore (Moore/The Author)
Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:

During prison visitation, Wes has asked Moore when he felt like he first became a man. Moore replies that it was when he felt he was accountable to people other than himself; Wes responds that “providing for others isn’t easy,” and that it can be difficult to get second chances when you mess up. In this passage, Wes further explains that it seems like both he and Moore made mistakes when they were younger. While they both got second chances, Wes’s second chances were not really meaningful, because they had no impact on the circumstances in which Wes made the decisions in the first place.

Wes’s understanding of second chances places a heavy emphasis on the influence of external circumstances rather than people’s individual choices. This foreshadows his and Moore’s conversation in the third and final interlude in which Wes argues that people’s destinies are shaped by the expectations of others. Wes’s observation also suggests that he has a more sophisticated and nuanced understanding of second chances, perhaps more so than Moore. Whereas Moore places a heavier emphasis on people’s ability to autonomously make the right decisions and turn their lives around, Wes emphasizes the importance of external change, which in turn allows people to change internally.

Chapter 5 Quotes

In Baltimore in 1991, 11.7 percent of girls between the ages of fifteen and nineteen had given birth. More than one out of ten. He also didn't feel burdened by the thought that early parenthood would wreck his future plans––because he didn't really have any future plans. And he wasn’t overly stressed about the responsibilities of fatherhood––he didn’t even know what that meant. But in some unspoken way, he did sense that he was crossing a point of no return, that things were about to get complicated in a way he was unequipped to handle.

Related Characters: Wes Moore (Moore/The Author) (speaker), The Other Wes Moore (Wes)
Page Number: 100
Explanation and Analysis:

Wes has discovered that Alicia is pregnant and that he is about to become a teenage father. Wes’s first reaction to the news is shock; he cannot bring himself to believe that Alicia is really having a baby. But after this initial disbelief subsides, Wes treats the pregnancy with a kind of numbed apathy. At the same time, Moore mentions that this does signal a turning point for Wes, a comment that relates back to their conversation in the interlude in which they discuss being responsible for others. While Moore describes the onset of this responsibility as a positive thing—the moment at which he becomes “a man”—Wes is more ambivalent. He is neither happy nor sad about Alicia’s pregnancy; he has no emotional investment in his future.

In the Afterword, Moore mentions that some readers believed the major cause of Wes’s downfall is his “indifference to contraception.” Although this is perhaps a rather crude understanding, Wes’s attitude toward his life is undeniably characterized by profound indifference. However, rather than placing blame entirely on Wes for this fact, it is important to view this indifference in the larger context of the resources and opportunities available to Wes. Given the environment in which he lives, how could he have much hope of a brighter future?

Chapter 6 Quotes

Wes had his entire operation organized with the precision of a military unit or a division of a Fortune 500 company. The drug game had its own rules, its own structure. He was a lieutenant, the leader of his small crew. Everyone in the crew had a specific job with carefully delineated responsibilities.

Related Characters: Wes Moore (Moore/The Author) (speaker), The Other Wes Moore (Wes)
Page Number: 110-111
Explanation and Analysis:

After Wes is released from juvenile detention, he moves in with Aunt Nicey. A high school dropout with a criminal record, Wes finds it difficult to get a legal job, and thus returns to the drug trade. In this passage, Moore describes the skill with which Wes runs his drug operation. Moore’s references to the military “the precision of a military unit… he was a lieutenant” explicitly relates Wes’s experiences in the drug game to Moore’s time at Valley Forge. However, where Moore is learning skills that will allow him to assume a valued and respected role in society—that of an Army officer—Wes’s (similar) skills only serve to further malign him in the eyes of society. This discrepancy emphasizes the notion of Wes’s wasted potential and of the injustice of his circumstances.

Part III Interlude Quotes

"I think so, or maybe products of our expectations."
"Others’ expectations of us or our expectations for ourselves?"
"l mean others' expectations that you take on as your own."
I realized then how difficult it is to separate the two. The expectations that others place on us help us form our expectations of ourselves.
"We will do what others expect of us," Wes said. "If they expect us to graduate, we will graduate. If they expect us to get a job, we will get a job. lf they expect us to go to jail, then that’s where we will end up too. At some point you lose control."

Related Characters: Wes Moore (Moore/The Author) (speaker), The Other Wes Moore (Wes) (speaker)
Related Symbols: Prison
Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:

During one of his visits to prison, Moore has asked Wes whether he thinks that people’s fates are determined by their external circumstances. Wes replies that he does, and that he thinks people internalize others’ expectations. Once again, Wes reveals a notably sophisticated understanding of the way in which people are influenced by external circumstances. While some may argue that Wes shifts the blame too far away from personal responsibility, his words are also supported by much of the evidence in the book. Although both men make mistakes when they are young, Moore is consistently surrounded by people who hope and expect him to achieve great things. Meanwhile, no one seriously expects Wes to achieve much at all.

Chapter 7 Quotes

"Fuck God," he said, drawing in a lungful of smoke. "If He does exist, He sure doesn't spend any time in West Baltimore."

Related Characters: The Other Wes Moore (Wes) (speaker)
Page Number: 140
Explanation and Analysis:

Wes and his friends have gone to get tattoos together. When it is Wes’s turn to decide which design to get, he opts for a black devil’s head. Although Wes attended church services occasionally when he was younger, he now no longer believes in God—or at least, doesn’t believe that God is present in his own community. As a young man, Wes does not often vocally express his feelings and beliefs and thus this is one of the only points in the book in which he provides any insight into his personal view of the world. Where most of the time Wes projects a kind of tough apathy, in this passage it is clear that beneath that apathy is a deeper and more painful form of anger and resentment.

It is difficult to blame Wes for having such a bleak view of the world and of God. Throughout his life, he has been surrounded by injustice, poverty, violence, crime, and suffering. Even people who try desperately to improve themselves—such as Wes’s mother Mary—rarely succeed. Rather than channeling his anger at this injustice in a constructive way, Wes becomes increasingly cynical and indifferent to his own fate. Yet can we really blame him, considering how powerless life in West Baltimore makes him feel?

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The Other Wes Moore (Wes) Character Timeline in The Other Wes Moore

The timeline below shows where the character The Other Wes Moore (Wes) appears in The Other Wes Moore. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Introduction
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...that it is the story of two men born in Baltimore with the same name: Wes Moore. While one of them grows up to achieve great success, the other will spend... (full context)
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Two years after discovering the story of the other Wes, Moore cannot stop thinking about him, even though he isn’t the type of person to... (full context)
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After this initial contact, the men continue to exchange letters, and eventually Moore begins visiting Wes in prison. Moore is astonished to learn of further parallels between their lives, and feels... (full context)
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...developing maturity. Each section begins with a short extract from a conversation between Moore and Wes during one of their visits in prison. At the end of the book, Moore provides... (full context)
Part I: Fathers and Angels (Interlude)
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Moore has asked Wes about how his father’s absence affected him, but Wes denies that it had much impact.... (full context)
Chapter 1: Is Daddy Coming with Us?
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...much good in the long run. Moore explains that he was named after his father, Westley, and that he has two middle names, Watende Omari. As his parents continue to argue,... (full context)
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The chapter jumps back to the three-year-old Moore in his room. Westley comes upstairs and gently tells his son that he must “defend” women, not hit them.... (full context)
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Moore explains that, as a young person, Westley was both gifted and extraordinarily driven. He graduates from Bard College in 1971 and immediately... (full context)
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Nikki calls an ambulance while Joy attempts CPR on Westley. When the medics arrive, Nikki makes Moore wait outside the house. Eventually, the ambulance take... (full context)
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The narrative switches to focus on Wes’s family. Wes’s mother, Mary, tells him to pack his things for a trip to stay... (full context)
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Wes feels protective of Mary, as his father has never been around to support her; meanwhile,... (full context)
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Wes watches Mary as she gets ready to go out dancing, which she often does to... (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 he can... (full context)
Chapter 2: In Search of Home
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Two years later, it is summer break and Wes wakes up to the sound of the phone ringing. It’s Tony, asking where Mary is.... (full context)
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After Tony hangs up, the phone rings again. This time it’s Woody, Wes’s new friend, who tells him to come outside. Wes has just moved away from Cherry... (full context)
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...are still together and his father is an army veteran. Woody is the only person Wes knows whose father is still with the family, and Wes feels envious of Woody’s close... (full context)
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One of the police officers tells Wes to put down the knife, but he barely notices. He hears Tony’s advice ringing in... (full context)
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Moore describes walking downstairs one night to find his mother half-asleep on the couch. Since Westley’s death, Joy has been sleeping in the living room in order to “stand guard” against... (full context)
Chapter 3: Foreign Ground
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The narrative jumps back to Wes, who has moved neighborhoods once again. Kurt Schmoke has recently been elected the first African-American... (full context)
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Wes feels envious of Tony’s new, expensive clothes, and begs Mary to let him buy some.... (full context)
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A few months earlier, Wes had been planning to skip school and have a cookout with Woody and their other... (full context)
Part II: Choices and Second Chances (Interlude)
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Back in prison, Moore wishes Wes a happy 32nd birthday, but Wes admits he almost forgot about the day altogether. Walking... (full context)
Chapter 4: Marking Territory
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Three years after Wes first decided to start work as a lookout, Tony is furiously asking his younger brother... (full context)
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...that he is giving up and leaves. Mary tends to her younger son’s wounds, but Wes is inconsolable. He wants desperately to be like Tony and for Tony to like him,... (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 “speed”... (full context)
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At Wes and Tony’s little brother’s first birthday, Tony indirectly reveals that Alicia is pregnant. On learning... (full context)
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One day, Wes’s new girlfriend sleeps in late at his place and wakes up in a panic. The... (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... (full context)
Chapter 6: Hunted
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...of all his friends who haven’t made it to this point, including White Boy and Wes, who dropped out two years ago. After being arrested for shooting Ray, Wes was lucky;... (full context)
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...of his criminal record and lack of high school diploma make it almost impossible for Wes to get a job. Alicia and the baby live with Alicia’s mother, while Wes lives... (full context)
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One day, Wes is standing on a corner with his crew. A stranger approaches and asks the guys... (full context)
Part III: Paths Taken and Expectations Fulfilled (Interlude)
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...notices that almost all of the visitors are women and children. During his conversation with Wes, Moore is shocked to hear that Wes still insists he wasn’t there during the armed... (full context)
Chapter 7: The Land That God Forgot
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Cheryl, the mother of Wes’s third and fourth children, is lying on the couch in a heroin-induced stupor. Horrified, Wes... (full context)
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Wes arrives at Levy’s house and tells him he wants to get out of the game.... (full context)
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Wes eventually decides to go the Job Corps interview, and soon afterward he packs his bag... (full context)
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For the vocational element of Job Corps, Wes chooses to train as a carpenter. He enjoys the feeling of building and perfecting something,... (full context)
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After graduating from the Job Corps, Wes takes on a series of temporary jobs, first as a landscaper, then a construction worker,... (full context)
Chapter 8: Surrounded
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...the shooting. Mary watches as the news reporter announces that the final two suspects—Tony and Wes—are still on the run, and that they are being treated as “armed and dangerous.” Days... (full context)
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...snow-covered curb. The police officers remind them that there is a reward for turning in Wes and Tony, as the guests silently shiver in their soaking clothes. When it is clear... (full context)
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In reality, Wes and Tony are in North Philadelphia, staying at an uncle’s house. Walking down the street,... (full context)
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During questioning, Wes does not feel nervous, as he knows he has lost all control over his fate.... (full context)
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...coincidence that the Baltimore police department is conducting a manhunt for another young man with Wes’s name. (full context)
Epilogue
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Inside Jessup Correctional Facility, Wes works as a carpenter for 53 cents a day. He gets 2 hours of free... (full context)
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Meanwhile, Mary still works in medical technology while raising six children: three of Wes’s kids, her niece and nephew, and her youngest son. Aunt Nicey works in elder care;... (full context)
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Moore reflects that The Other Wes Moore was a labor of love, rigorously researched even though Moore has no journalistic training.... (full context)
Afterword
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...readers pressed him for an answer on what factors caused the divergence in his and Wes’s fates. He’s found that each reader comes up with their own answer, pointing to anything... (full context)