The Other Wes Moore


Wes Moore

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Discipline and Violence Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Other Wes Moore, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Discipline and Violence Theme Icon

The Other Wes Moore features a great deal of violence, yet this violence comes in many different forms. Perhaps the most obvious example is the violence of the streets, which affects both men yet is a far bigger part of Wes’s life than Moore’s. Both men are born in Baltimore at a time in which drugs and gang violence are taking a devastating toll on the city. However, as Moore moves through life he becomes increasingly insulated from the violence of the streets—first through moving out of Baltimore, then enrolling in Riverdale, finding success as a football player, being placed in military school, and so on. Wes, on the other hand, has no escape route. Although Mary, Tony, and Woody attempt to keep him away from the world of crime and violence, Wes’s entrance into this world seems inevitable; this is true even though Wes himself has no desire to engage in violence, and tries multiple times to pursue a different path.

For Wes, violence is less a deliberate choice or action and more a reality that surrounds and suffocates him: “Wes was tired… tired of being shot at and having to attend the funerals of his friends.” In this way, Moore implies that there is a note of injustice in Wes’s life imprisonment for murder. When the judge sentences Wes, he accuses him of behaving as if he lived in “the Wild West,” a statement that fails to grasp the fact that Wes’s environment is just as violent and chaotic (if not more so) than the Wild West was. Although Moore believes that Wes is guilty, the overall portrait of Wes’s life suggest that there was never any real chance of him escaping the violent world into which he was born.

To some extent, the book suggests that the antidote to violence is discipline. Moore’s enrollment at military school, for example, is shown to be the turning point that enables him to succeed in life and escape the streets for good. On the other hand, discipline—and particularly the criminal justice system—is also shown in the book to be a form of violence in itself. When both Wes Moores are young, they have frequent interactions with the police in which the police behave in a violent and aggressive manner, despite the fact that the boys are only children. Meanwhile, Wes’s life imprisonment illustrates the injustice of the prison system. Although Moore does not deny that Wes should have been sent to prison due to his involvement in a violent crime, it is clear that the discipline of prison has significantly changed Wes, such that he could likely emerge a non-threatening and responsible member of society. Yet unlike Moore, whose experience of a disciplinary institution (military school) ultimately enables him to flourish, Wes is stuck with discipline for discipline’s sake, working every day in order to make 53 cents and with no hope of release.

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Discipline and Violence ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Discipline and Violence appears in each chapter of The Other Wes Moore. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Discipline and Violence Quotes in The Other Wes Moore

Below you will find the important quotes in The Other Wes Moore related to the theme of Discipline and Violence.
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 Symbols: Prison
Page Number: xiii
Explanation and Analysis:
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:
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:
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?

Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

Wes, you are not going anywhere until you give this place a try. I am so proud of you, and your father is proud of you, and we just want you to give this a shot. Too many people have sacrificed in order for you to be there.

Related Characters: Joy (speaker), Wes Moore (Moore/The Author), Westley
Page Number: 95
Explanation and Analysis:
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.

Page Number: 110-111
Explanation and Analysis:

I had to let this one go. I had to look at the bigger picture. My assailant was unknown, unnamed, and in a car. This was not a fair fight, and the best-case scenario was nowhere near as probable as the worst-case scenario. If I was successful, who knew how the fight would've ended? If I failed, who knew how the fight would've ended? I thought about my mother and how she would feel if this escalated any further. I thought about my father and the name he chose for me.

Page Number: 121
Explanation and Analysis:
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:
Chapter 7 Quotes

As I started to think seriously about how I could become the person I wanted to be, I looked around at some of the people who'd had the biggest impact on my life. Aside from family and friends, the men I most trusted all had something in common: they all wore the uniform of the United States of America.

Related Characters: Wes Moore (Moore/The Author) (speaker)
Page Number: 132
Explanation and Analysis:

"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: