Two Boys, Same Life, Different Fates
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What would you do if you found out that someone grew up only a few blocks away from you, bearing the same name, the same fatherless childhood, yet ended up with different lives in the end? Wes Moore went out to find the answer to the question in the book The Other Wes Moore. Both the author Wes Moore and the other Wes Moore had similar childhoods. Both grew up fatherless and living in Baltimore, Maryland, both lived a life on the streets, and both ran into trouble with the police. At a glance, their lives sound similar growing up. After looking at the details of both of their childhoods, it becomes more apparent that they were not so similar growing up. Although they share many similarities that lead to the deviation in both the Author Wes Moore and the other Wes Moore’s lives, they grew up living very different lives.
Both the author Wes and the other Wes grew up fatherless, but the reasons to why this happened were different. The author Wes had a father who was a widely known newscaster. He returned home from a newscast one day, not feeling too well. After a trip to the hospital, he was sent home, told he was exaggerating his symptoms, and then ordered to get rest. The next day, he died of a misdiagnosis of acute epiglottitis. The author wrote, “I heard my father coming down the stairs. His steps were slower than usual. I got up form the chair so I could be picked up as soon as he reached the first floor. Then I heard a crash” (13). The author Wes’s father left their family unexpectedly, forcing the children to be raised under a single mother household. The other Wes, in contrast, never knew his father. Wes’ father Bernard left him before he was even born, but came back around to try and be apart of his life. Wes was about eight months old when Bernard showed up in the middle of the night drunk and crazy. The author Wes explained the situation, “Once, Bernard tried to be involved in his child’s life.
About eight months after Wes’s birth, Mary was awakened by a loud banging on the front door of he home she shared with her sister on Pennsylvania Avenue” (24). Wes’s father chose to not be apart of their lives. He was young, he was a drunk, and he had no steady job, and was not ready to assume responsibility for a child’s life. This left his mother no choice but to raise the other Wes on her own. Both Wes’s grew up fatherless, but under difference circumstances. The author Wes had a conversation with the other Wes, and he said, “Your father wasn’t there because he couldn’t be, my father wasn’t there because he chose not to be. We’re going to mourn their absence in different ways” (4). The author Wes’s father did not chose to leave their family, he was taken away, in comparison to the other Wes, who’s father left them before he was even born. That mentally affected the other Wes, making him think that he was not cared for, or wanted, opposite from how the author Wes felt. This is a major difference in their single parent household.
Both Wes’s grew up in a single mother household, but the roles of the mother’s in each boy’s lives were unalike. The author Wes’s mother played a big influence on his future life. After their father died, the family picked up and moved to the Bronx with their grandparents because his mother Mary could not get through alone anymore. The Bronx was just as bad as the streets of Baltimore, but the difference was having more eyes watching Wes and implicating stricter rules. Wes explained the rules, “When the streetlights went on, we had to be back home. All chores had to be done before we even thought about going outside to play. If we heard any gunfire or, as my grandmother called it, ‘foolishness,’ outside, we were to immediately return home, no matter when it was” (42). Wes’s mother made sure that if she were not around to enforce the rules, she would have someone there that would. His mother knew that Wes would never have a prosperous future going through the public school system, so she made sure he would attend a school where he would receive a good education that he could apply to his future life.
When she saw Wes slipping in school, she threatened him with military school, and Wes did not believe she would do it. Wes spoke about his mother, “I knew my mother was considering sending me away, but I never thought she’d actually do it” (87). His mother did not back down on her threat, and because she stayed strong and followed through, she greatly impacted his life for the better. The other Wes, on the other hand, had a mother who cared, but was very inactive in his life. The author wrote about their usual house life, “Their mom was usually out of the house by 8:30 and didn’t come back until well into the evening. Wes, now eight years old, was free form any adult supervision till then. His brother, six years older, was the closest thing Wes had to a caretaker during the daylight hours and was fiercely protective of the little brother who idolized him” (26). His mother was rarely in the house to guide her son at such a young age, leaving the only guide for Wes during her absence was his older brother Tony.
Although he tried to keep him in school and off the streets, Wes considered him a ‘certified gangsta,’ and that was the only thing he knew how to do well. The other Wes’s mother caught him storing drugs in the house and found out that his vast money income came from selling on the streets, and she threatened him. The author quoted the threat, “Not only did you lie to me, but you were selling drugs and keeping them in my house! Putting all of us in danger because of your stupidity. I don’t want to hear your sob story about how much money you owe. You will stop selling that stuff. I will be checking your room, and I don’t ever want to see it in here again.
Now get out of my room” (74). His mother made the threat, but never followed through with a punishment. Wes hid the drugs other places, and his mother gave up trying. The other Wes had barely any supervision, rules, or restrictions, in contrast to the author Wes. With the vast amount of freedom given to the other Wes, he was able to keep the street selling and misdemeanors going, while the author Wes was immediately shipped away to military school. The actions of the single mothers directly affect their lives in the future and are a major cause of the deviation of their adult lives.
Both the author Wes and the other Wes had confrontations with the police, but the conditions were different. The author Wes was out with his friend Shea and they were tagging on the streets. They had just started the markups on the wall when they heard the sirens of the police. The author wrote, “Wuap, Wuap! The distinctive sound of the police siren rang out. Shea and I looked at each other and then sprinted off in different directions. Foolishly, I headed right past the police car; it took one of the officers seconds to wrap me up and throw me against his vehicle” (81). This was the author’s first encounter with the police, a minor non-violent quarrel. The police let him off with a warning, to which he said, “The cops gave us a gift that day, and I swore I would never get caught in a situation like that again.” (84). The situation involving the police was non-violent, and it is a major difference between the other Wes’s situation involving the police. The other Wes, compared to the author Wes, had a polar opposite arrest. The other Wes had his first run in with the police during a pick up game of football on his street.
Wes didn’t believe in taking it easy, and while playing defense, pushed a boy to knock him off balance. That resulted in the littler boy punching Wes in the face. Wes was infuriated, and the author quoted him saying, “The sight and taste of his own blood set Wes off. He clenched his fists and forced his was past Woody.” (32). Wes ran home, not in defeat, but because he wanted to settle the fight a different way. He went home, grabbed a knife, and was ready to attack the smaller boy. Wes was facing the smaller boy, but the police were right behind him. The author wrote about the event, “After repeating the order one more time, and watching Wes ignore it again, one of the officers stepped forward.
He lifted all eighty pounds of Wes off the ground, slamming him face first on the front of the police cruiser” (34). Wes and his incident with the police was sparked by a violent action and ended with yet more violence. Both Wes’s had encounters with the police, but the author’s encounter was non-violent, while the other Wes felt to prove himself tougher was to react with violence. This further shows how their background and life growing up has influenced both Wes’s. The author was taught that violence was not the answer, and that it takes a strong man to choose not to fight. In contrast, the other Wes had grown up being taught that fighting is the only proof for how strong or tough you were. These are differences that show through their encounters with the police.
Both Wes Moore’s at a glance have similar upbringings. Both were fatherless, both grew up on the streets with their crews, and both ran into trouble with the police. Through all these similarities, they are still significantly different. Their mothers, their households and school systems, and their views on life were both different, and all contributed to the deviation of their adult lives. The environments and expectations of both Wes Moore’s have shaped them to be the people they are today.
Moore, Wes. The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates. New York: Spiegal & Grau Trade Paperbacks, 2011. Print.