The book is not only a portrayal of the two Wes Moores; it is also a depiction of their families. Moore emphasizes the extent to which our families shape who we are, and stresses that without family support, most people have little chance of achieving success. Moore begins the narrative with a discussion of how he and Wes each had to cope with having an absent fathers, before moving on to describe his own father and recalling the few memories he has of life before his father’s death. Although Moore’s father Westley dies when Moore is very young, he remains a significant figure in the narrative and continues to exert a positive influence on Moore even after death. Moore reflects that the experience of researching and writing the book is, to some extent, a tribute to his father, who was a radio journalist. Thus Moore suggests that even though his father is not physically present in his life, he still shaped the man who Moore becomes. Similarly, although Wes barely knows his father, he ends up repeating his father’s destiny by not being present to raise his own children. The experience of the two Wes Moores suggests that often we cannot help but be defined by our parents’ legacies.
At the same time, families’ deliberate attempts to control their children’s destinies often backfire. When Joy enrolls Moore at Riverdale, she imagines that this will expand his “horizons” and help him to create a better life. However, she underestimates the impact that the social alienation of attending a “white school” will have on her son. Moore’s rejection of Riverdale and poor academic performance there puts a significant strain on his relationship with his mother. Meanwhile, Wes’s family are even less successful in controlling his destiny. Mary reacts harshly when she finds out that Wes is dealing drugs, vengefully flushing thousands of dollars of drugs that Wes intends to sell down the toilet. Similarly, Tony is determined that his younger brother does not follow his example of being a drug dealer, but rather stays in school and out of “the game.” However, Tony and Mary’s efforts fail to deter Wes from the drug trade. Rather than following Tony’s advice, Wes prefers to emulate his older brother, and the two men eventually end up being sent to life in prison for the same crime. Again, this suggests that it is the examples set by our families—rather than the deliberate attempts they make to influence our fates—that has the bigger impact.
Moore also works to show the way in which a larger network of relationships is crucial in shaping young people as they grow up. Moore’s friendships with Justin, Captain Hill, Mayor Kurt Schmoke, and Zinzi all push him to improve himself and make him feel supported as he moves through life. Meanwhile, Wes’s non-familial relationships pull him in opposing directions; while Woody and Levy support Wes in making responsible decisions, his relationships with Cheryl and his drug crew have more of a destructive impact. Cheryl steals from him in order to support her heroin addiction, and his crew help escalate the situation that leads to the shooting of Ray. Throughout the book, Wes is shown to lack people who will guide him away from harmful decisions and toward better ones. While his relationships with friends and family are important, they sometimes exacerbate his existing destructive tendencies. In this sense, Moore suggests that the people we choose to surround ourselves with tend to reflect our own self-image, and in turn propel our destiny in a good or bad direction depending on how we view ourselves.
Friendship, Family, and Brotherhood ThemeTracker
Friendship, Family, and Brotherhood Quotes in The Other Wes Moore
'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.”
We were all enclosed by the same fence, bumping into one another, fighting, celebrating. Showing one another our best and worst, revealing ourselves––even our cruelty and crimes––as if that fence had created a circle of trust. A brotherhood.
My mother saw Riverdale as a haven, a place where I could escape my neighborhood and open my horizons. But for me, it was where I got lost.
I was becoming too "rich" for the kids from the neighborhood and too "poor" for the kids at school. I had forgotten how to act naturally, thinking way too much in each situation and getting tangled in the contradictions between my two worlds. My confidence took a hit. Unlike Justin, whose maturity helped him handle this transition much better than I did, I began to let my grades slip.
I found in hip-hop the sound of my generation talking to itself, working through the fears and anxieties and inchoate dreams—of wealth or power or revolution or success—we all shared. It broadcast an exaggerated version of our complicated interior lives to the world, made us feel less alone in the madness of the era, less marginal. Of course, all that didn't matter to my mother. All she knew was that I could effortlessly recite hip-hop lyrics while struggling with my English class.
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.
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.
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.
"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."
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.