The Other Wes Moore

Prison Symbol Icon

The central concept of The Other Wes Moore is that, despite similar beginnings, Moore the author ended up leading a successful and fulfilling life while “the other” Wes will spend every day of the rest of his life behind bars. Prison is a haunting presence in the narrative. Each of the book’s three parts begins with a conversation between Moore and Wes during visitation at Jessup Correctional Facility, where Wes is incarcerated. Moore vividly recreates the grim reality of the prison environment, from the bulletproof glass that separates the prisoners and their visitors to the “DOC” emblazoned on each of the prisoners’ uniforms, reminding them that they are “owned by the state.” The repetitive routine of each visit—Moore waits to be searched, waits for the inmates to enter, and speaks with Wes for the strictly-monitored allotted time—mirrors the repetitive monotony of each of Wes’s days. In the Epilogue, Moore notes that Wes begins each day at 5.30am, works as a carpenter for 53 cents a day, is instructed when to eat, wash, and sleep, and is allotted two hours of free time every day. In contrast to Moore’s life, which is filled with a diverse series of achievements and adventures, Wes’s existence will be the same every day for the rest of his life.

Ironically, it is this monotony that allows Wes to look to the future for the first time. Before being sent to prison, Wes’s life is full of instability, and his involvement in the violent drug game makes it difficult for him to imagine a future for himself. (When Wes finds out he will become a teenage father, he does not worry about parenthood ruining his future plans “because he didn’t really have any future plans.”) Once he knows that he will spend the rest of his life incarcerated, Wes is finally able to “see his future.” This tragic observation evokes the idea that many poor young black men like Wes are destined to end up incarcerated due to lack of resources, opportunities, and support. Indeed, earlier in the book Moore mentions that the way “many governors projected the numbers of beds they'd need for prison facilities was by examining the reading scores of third graders,” thereby confirming the idea that the broader social system pre-determined that Wes would end up behind bars.

Despite the monotonous and inescapable nature of incarceration, however, Wes does use his time in prison to undergo a dramatic personal transformation. He converts to Islam and becomes a leader in the Muslim community at Jessup; his newfound faith gives him a sense of moral direction and purpose. Furthermore, despite the fact that he personally will never be able to leave prison, Wes hopes that through Moore’s telling of his story, he will be able to help other young people avoid the same fate.

Prison Quotes in The Other Wes Moore

The The Other Wes Moore quotes below all refer to the symbol of Prison. 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Spiegel & Grau edition of The Other Wes Moore published in 2011.
Introduction Quotes

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:

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Chapter 3 Quotes

Later in life I learned that the way many governors projected the numbers of beds they'd need for prison facilities was by examining the reading scores of third graders. Elected officials deduced that a strong percentage of kids reading below their grade level by third grade would be needing a secure place to stay when they got older. Considering my performance in the classroom thus far, I was well on my way to needing state-sponsored accommodations.

Related Characters: Wes Moore (Moore/The Author) (speaker)
Related Symbols: Prison
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Prison Symbol Timeline in The Other Wes Moore

The timeline below shows where the symbol Prison appears in The Other Wes Moore. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Introduction
Luck vs. Choice Theme Icon
Friendship, Family, and Brotherhood Theme Icon
Inclusion vs. Exclusion Theme Icon
Discipline and Violence Theme Icon
...up to achieve great success, the other will spend the rest of his life in prison. The book will examine the decisions that shape our destiny and highlight how easy it... (full context)
Luck vs. Choice Theme Icon
Friendship, Family, and Brotherhood Theme Icon
Race, Inequality, and Injustice Theme Icon
Discipline and Violence Theme Icon
...short extract from a conversation between Moore and Wes during one of their visits in prison. At the end of the book, Moore provides over 200 resources to help young people... (full context)
Part I: Fathers and Angels (Interlude)
Luck vs. Choice Theme Icon
Friendship, Family, and Brotherhood Theme Icon
Inclusion vs. Exclusion Theme Icon
Discipline and Violence Theme Icon
...be. Moore explains that this conversation took placed during one of his first visits to prison. He describes witnessing many signs indicating that “the prisoners were owned by the state.” Talking... (full context)
Part III: Paths Taken and Expectations Fulfilled (Interlude)
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
In the prison visiting room, Moore notices that almost all of the visitors are women and children. During... (full context)
Chapter 7: The Land That God Forgot
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
...hesitant. His aunt started Job Corps but quit because it reminded her too much of prison. Meanwhile, Wes wonders how he will be able to support Mary, Alicia, Cheryl, and his... (full context)
Luck vs. Choice Theme Icon
Friendship, Family, and Brotherhood Theme Icon
Inclusion vs. Exclusion Theme Icon
...Mary, and not to end up like Tony, who is perpetually in and out of prison. When graduation comes, Wes is excited but also nervous, uncertain of what lies beyond the... (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
...apathy. Ultimately, he is found guilty of first-degree felony murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole. Sergeant Prothero’s widow sobs, as do Mary, Aunt Nicey, and Alicia. The judge... (full context)
Epilogue
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
...services, but he is now a devout believer and leader in the Muslim community in prison. His family visits, but he finds these occasions difficult. When Barack Obama is elected President,... (full context)