The Other Wes Moore

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The Murphy Homes Projects Symbol Analysis

The Murphy Homes Projects Symbol Icon

Where Johns Hopkins symbolizes achievement and opportunity, the Murphy Homes Projects represent the opposite: violence, crime, and wasted potential. Named after the legendary Baltimore educator George Murphy, the Murphy Homes could not be further from Murphy’s legacy. The buildings are in a desperate state of filth and disrepair and are overrun with violent drug crime, such that they are nicknamed “the Murder Homes” by local residents. Wes’s older brother, Tony, spends most of their youth living in the Murphy Homes with his father and grandparents, and Tony’s choice of residence reflects the fact that he has been deep in the drug game from an early age. For Tony, drug crime is not just a way of making money but a reality that totally surrounds him and from which he cannot ever escape.

Toward the end of the book, Moore mentions that Mayor Kurt Schmoke has overseen the demolition of the Murphy Homes Projects as part of his efforts to solve the social problems plaguing West Baltimore. While to some extent this is presented as a sign of progress and success, it also raises questions about what the destruction of the homes will actually solve. Throughout the book, Moore describes the gentrification that forces the urban poor of Baltimore to leave their homes and neighborhoods. At one point Wes ponders what is supposed to happen to all those who are displaced to make way for wealthier, white residents. Does the destruction of the Murphy Homes Projects really address the issues facing Baltimore directly, or is it more of a symbolic gesture that leaves the real problems unresolved?

The Murphy Homes Projects Quotes in The Other Wes Moore

The The Other Wes Moore quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Murphy Homes Projects. 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 2 Quotes

The walls and floors were coated with filth and graffiti. Flickering fluorescent tubes (the ones that weren't completely broken) dimly lit the cinder-block hallways. The constantly broken-down elevators forced residents to climb claustrophobic, urine-scented stairways. And the drug game was everywhere, with a gun handle protruding from the top of every tenth teenager's waistline. People who lived in Murphy Homes felt like prisoners, kept in check by roving bands of gun-strapped kids and a nightmare army of drug fiends. This was where Tony chose to spend his days.

Related Characters: Wes Moore (Moore/The Author) (speaker), Tony
Related Symbols: The Murphy Homes Projects
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:

Moore has explained that Tony, who is six years older than Wes, is the closest thing that Wes has to a father figure. However, Tony isn’t around all the time because he lives with his father and grandparents in the Murphy Homes, a notorious housing project nicknamed the “Murder homes.” Moore’s description of the Murphy Homes brings to mind a warzone more than a residential community. It emphasizes the extent to which West Baltimore is a neglected, forgotten community forced to deal with living conditions that would horrify many affluent and white Americans.

Although many in the Murphy Homes Projects would undoubtedly rather live elsewhere, Moore emphasizes that the Homes are “where Tony chose to spend his days.” This comment illustrates the way in which luck and choice intermingle in the cruel environment of West Baltimore. While Tony likely doesn’t enjoy spending time in “urine-scented stairways,” he has made the decision to participate in the drug trade. The consequences of his role as a drug dealer can never be blamed on either choice or luck alone, but rather a combination of the two.

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The Murphy Homes Projects Symbol Timeline in The Other Wes Moore

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Murphy Homes Projects 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
Discipline and Violence  Theme Icon
...older brother Tony spends most of his time with his grandparents and father in the Murphy Homes Projects . Despite the termination of her Pell Grant, Mary still dreams of leaving her Baltimore... (full context)
Chapter 2: In Search of Home
Luck vs. Choice Theme Icon
Friendship, Family, and Brotherhood Theme Icon
Inclusion vs. Exclusion Theme Icon
Race, Inequality, and Injustice Theme Icon
Discipline and Violence  Theme Icon
...although Wes doesn’t see him often as Tony spends most of his time in the Murphy Homes Projects —a filthy cluster of buildings, nicknamed the “Murder Homes,” which are overrun by criminal activity.... (full context)
Luck vs. Choice Theme Icon
Friendship, Family, and Brotherhood Theme Icon
Inclusion vs. Exclusion Theme Icon
Discipline and Violence  Theme Icon
...moment, stunned, before sprinting home. Wes thinks of Tony, who sometimes brings him to the Murphy Homes to practice fighting. Wes grabs a long knife, ignoring Woody’s pleas to let the argument... (full context)
Chapter 3: Foreign Ground
Luck vs. Choice Theme Icon
Friendship, Family, and Brotherhood Theme Icon
Race, Inequality, and Injustice Theme Icon
Discipline and Violence  Theme Icon
...example of the devastating effects of drug crime. At 18, Tony is living in the Murphy House Projects and has recently been shot during a drug deal gone wrong. Wes has been forced... (full context)
Chapter 8: Surrounded
Luck vs. Choice Theme Icon
Friendship, Family, and Brotherhood Theme Icon
Inclusion vs. Exclusion Theme Icon
Race, Inequality, and Injustice Theme Icon
Discipline and Violence  Theme Icon
...Although the city has seen real progress during Schmoke’s tenure (including the destruction of the Murphy Homes Projects ), the murder rate has still not fallen and teenage pregnancy rates are up. Moore... (full context)