The Impact of Family Influences

Both Wes Moores were given opportunities at one point in the book, but the author Wes took full advantage of his positive opportunities and his exposure to education. The other Wes wasted opportunities and is sitting in a prison cell right now, partly because of his brother Tony’s influence. The other Wes has negative family influences that pushed him in the opposite direction. Positive opportunities family members provided them exposed the differences between the author Wes and the other Wes Moore.

Family is a big contributor to opportunity in the Author Wes Moore says, about people leading him in the right direction “…I found myself surrounded by people–starting with my mom, grandparents, uncles, and aunts, and leading to a string of wonderful role models and mentors–who kept pushing me […] to see the boundless possibilities of the wider world and the unexplored possibilities within myself.” The author Wes Moore has a strong support system from his family giving him more opportunities leading to his success. According to the book Growing Up In Poverty: Findings From Young Lives, “Cognitive achievement is further related to parental education, and in three of the countries to maternal psychosocial ‘skills.” The author Wes had a mother who had opportunities for higher education and it gave opportunities. The other Wes Moore lacked this support.

Family context and background influences the author Wes says, “We make decisions based on what we see in that limited world and follow the only models available.” This explains how family helped him choose to take advantage of his opportunities. When the author Wes Moore decides to not play basketball in college, he made that decision based on the influence of his uncle. He had two opportunities at the time, but choosing education had a more positive outcome. According to Growing Up In Poverty: Findings From Young Lives, “Beyond outcomes such as educational achievement, recently there has been conceptual discussion and empirical research on the social opportunities children have and how these are related to their individual and family backgrounds.” His uncle trying to push him towards the education caused author Wes to gain more opportunities and skills. The other Wes lacked any type of role model or anyone pushing him in the right direction; led him into a world with fewer opportunities and even danger. The other Wes did not have social skills whenever the boy punched him because he automatically went and got a weapon. Whenever author Wes was in the situation with the people throwing rocks at him, he handled it in a poise and calm way. Having these social skills gave the author Wes gave him an advantage.

Believing you are a product of your environment diminishes hope and opportunities of mental growth. The other Wes buys into his belief that he is a product of his environment. When other Wes was talking to author Wes in the prison he said, “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 meant too much, huh?” The other Wes is a product of his environment and did not have much support compared to the author Wes meaning he had fewer opportunities. He is saying even if he made a different choice the other Wes still could not have received a different outcome. In the book Growing Up In Poverty: Findings From Young Lives, For children growing up in poverty, “Children’s life chances in education, health, and well-being are closely bound up with, and shaped by, the situation of their households, and their socio-cultural environment, as well as the unequal distribution of power, wealth, and opportunities in societies.” The other Wes had gone through so much adversity his choices were defined on him knowing nothing good was coming out of his decisions anyway. When the other Wes has opportunities presented to him he believed his decisions would not change his current circumstance.

There were Educational opportunities presented to the parents as well. When the other Wes Moores mother lost her opportunity to go to college “Mary realized the letter effectively closed the door on her college aspirations. She had already completed sixteen hours of college credits and would get no closer toward graduation.” It was an opportunity that was taken from her to finish her education. So, the other Wes didn’t finish high school because his mother quit college. This was another opportunity the other Wes wasted because of his lack of support. Since he did not have anyone to look up to, he started wasting his education opportunities. Constantly going in and out of jail, the other Wes never finished high school. In Growing Up In Poverty: Finding From Young Lives, we ?nd evidence that both parental SES and the mother’s psychosocial skills are positively associated with children’s cognitive and psychosocial skills across all countries, and that the mother’s psychosocial skills can partly explain the link between parental SES and the child’s psychosocial skills.” If his mother didn’t quit school and found another way to pay for it, the other Wes would have had a role model to look up to, and he would have had more opportunities given to him like the Author Wes Moore did. The successful author Wes Moore was given more possibilities than the other Wes because Wes’ family mainly, his mother, was naturally a big contributor to his opportunities. His mother gave him a better education by sending author Wes to private school. She may have known to do this based on her having completed her own education. His uncle told him to focus more on education than basketball. Wes’ mother made the best choice by sending him to military school instilling discipline and hard work into him.

Both of the Wes Moores had opportunities, but one had role models and family to support and mold his decision making. In order for the other Wes not to waste opportunities he would have to see people doing the right things like the author did so he could know what was right and wrong. The other Wes wasted opportunities, not only because he is a product of his environment, but he had nobody to see doing the right things. If his brother Tony wasn’t a hypocrite and sold drugs telling his brother not to sell them. Tony doing the opposite of what he was preaching to his brother, the other Wes sold drugs anyway. The author Wes has so much support from his family and friends they steered in him not only the direction of success, but in every opportunity to get the right outcome.

The Other Wes Moore, by Wes Moore, Book Review

The Other Wes Moore is a non-fiction story that chronicles the lives of two young African-American men that share the same name: Wes Moore. The story compares and contrasts the lives and decisions of the two men and brings to light the social factors that drove them to have completely different lives. The book begs the question: Are people products of their environment, or do they make their own paths? Race, religion and relationships each have a tremendous impact of the paths of each of the men.

These factors change the circumstances of the men’s lives and lead to forks in the road, where a decision must be made; in turn, these decisions piece together to create a lives that lead to opposite ends of the spectrum of success. The race, religion and relationships in each of the men’s lives began nearly identical, but the way that they were handled ultimately decided the outcome of the two lives.

I will use the name ‘Moore’ to describe the author and the name ‘Wes’ to describe the other Wes Moore in the story.

The two men come from a very similar beginning. Each of them was born in Baltimore, Maryland, each grew up without a father, each grew up as a black man, and the two men were the same age. The book was comprised of the authors recollection of his own life and decisions, while the other Wes Moore is featured through meetings with the author. The two men meet and discuss their lives through a glass window in prison. The goal was to work collaboratively to create a book detailing their lives and the differences in their choices.

The story unfolds in three main parts. Part one is about how the two men each grew up with the absence of a father. However, the reason for the absence was different. Moore’s father passed away when Moore was still very young; he died suddenly of a virus called acute epiglottitis, which causes suffocation. Wes’s father, on the other hand, was absent in his life from a young age by choice. Wes claims that this did not have much of an impact on his life.

The second part of the story is a discussion about maturity. The story of the two lives continues, and the paths begin to separate. Wes notices his older brother, Tony, collecting a large wardrobe of expensive clothing. Wes, now 15 years old, follows his brother and begins to sell marijuana illegally. Later, he gets one of his “many” girlfriends pregnant and drops out of school. He also is involved in a shootout with one of his girlfriends boyfriends, and gets sentenced to six months in juvenile prison. Moore has also found himself in some mischief; he was caught spraying graffiti and he was handcuffed, but nothing came of the incident. Moore was naturally intelligent, but his social life at home and in school led his grades to slip. After threatening repeatedly, Moore’s mother, Joy, sends Moore to Valley Forge Military Academy, where after a slow start, Moore excels at the school.

The final interlude of the story is a discussion about whether or not the men are products of their environment. Wes now has two children with two different women. He earns his GED, but even after being caught selling drugs in the past, Wes gets back into the dealing game. The final chapter in Wes’s story ultimately decides the fate of his life. Wes, his brother Tony, and two other men enter a jewelry store armed and they loot over $400,000 worth of merchandise. In their escape, security guard Sergeant Bruce Prothero follows the men, and is shot and killed in the chase. After hiding out for over a week, Wes and Tony are captured and Wes is sentenced to life in prison. Meanwhile, Moore has continued to excel at school and eventually finds himself as the recipient of the prestigious Rhodes scholarship. He continued to succeed and eventually learned about the other Wes Moore, and he wanted to learn about what led them to two opposite sides of life.

The first factor that differentiates the two lives is family; the family environment can be a support system or a bad influence. It is clear that Moore’s family acted more as a support system, while the toxic nature of drug abuse and violence influenced Wes negatively. Moore’s mother Joy obviously wanted the best for Moore when she enrolled him into Riverdale, but she underestimated the social consequences of a black child in a white school. This is described when Moore says: “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.” (Page 42) Wes’s mother Mary was very upset when she found out Wes was dealing drugs, and although Wes’s older brother Tony was a dealer, he did not want Wes to go down the same path. However, it is so common in family structures to see the younger siblings follow the lead of the older ones, and that is what led Wes to get into the drug game. Another example of relationships affecting the paths of the two men are their friends. Moore was mostly surrounded with men like Captain Hill and Mayor Kurt Schmoke, whereas Wes had Woody, who attempted to influence him positively, but was also surrounded by the drug gang, which only pushed him further down the wrong path. It is by no means the fault of the family that caused Wes to make the decisions that he did, they only elevated existing tendencies to choose the easy way out. Moore suggests that sometimes the people that we choose to associate with exemplify our own beliefs and behaviors, and this can push us more towards our view of ourselves, whether positive or negative.

Race is a key trend in this book that comes up several times. Institutional racism comes in many different forms and pops up in the most unlikely of places. One of the key similarities of the two Wes Moore’s is that they are both black. Each of them deals with racism and discrimination from society, and it hinders both of them. “He lifted all eighty pounds of Wes off the ground, slamming him face first on the trunk of the police cruiser. Wes’s chest collapsed against the trunk of the car, sending pain throughout his entire body… he tried to plead his case to the police officer as he closed the second cuff on Wes’s eight-year-old wrists.” (pages 37-38) This is the first instance of brutality that took place against Wes after he was involved in a violent fight. It came across like the officer in the story was treating Wes like an animal, and that can instill a bad influence on an eight year old child. Throughout Moore’s time at Riverdale, he was one of the only black children attending the school. He was harassed by the other students for being different, and this caused his grades to slip. Another example of racial harassment to Moore was when he and Dalio were walking through town and a group of drunk teenagers verbally and physically harassed them with racist motives. It’s not a coincidence that the odds were stacked against both of the men; the real life accounts of abuse in the two lives bring to light how society sets back people of color. The two men both did not get to enjoy white privilege and most definitely did not get the benefit of the doubt in most situations. This undoubtedly hindered the paths of each of the men, to no fault of their own.

Religion is a powerful influencer in how billions of people live their lives. Whether or not you are religious, you cannot deny that many of the principles of Christianity inforce positive living and healthy fellowship with others. These principles can act as an outline for many tough decisions, and can form a life of honest living. It is clear that Moore was influenced by religion from an early age. His grandfather, Rev. Dr. James Thomas was a minister. When Moore was young, after his father had died, he, his mother and his siblings moved in with his grandparents. They were strict on the kids, but also provided love and support. This is likely were religious values were introduced to Moore. These values appear a few times in the story. For example, “As we were seconds away from taking the leap, the multitude of prayers that left the plane were palpable. I stared at the yellow light at the front of the plane, waiting for it to turn green; I spoke with God, asking Him to watch over me and the others in the plane.” (Page 132) This by no means say that Moore is a Christian, or believes in any particular god, but it definitely presses the idea that he has faith that there is something watching over us, and that can be all it takes. This took place right before Moore was about to jump out of a plane. Having a religious family can act as a second family to many people. They provide support and wisdom for each other and this can make it easier to find success in life. In the call to action, Moore allows Travis Smiley to express what he thinks about religion when he says: “The most important thing in life is to try, and that God will take care of the rest.” On the other side of the spectrum, Wes was not religious in anyway: “Where was God when people didn’t make enough money to feed their families? Where was God when kids were selling rocks at twelve years old, and their parents encouraged it because the kids were the main breadwinners in the home?…’Fuck God’.” (Page 137) Wes obviously has no hope for salvation and no care for a greater power. This leads back to the question, are people products of their environment? Wes was never exposed to any religious ideas like Moore was; he was stuck in a bad environment with people that were no better than him. Religion can be powerful, but only if you are willing to open your heart to it, and only one of the two men made that decision.

I felt like this book was a unique and brilliant idea at examining two people that started from seemingly the same point and ended up with totally different lifes. I enjoyed my time learning about Moore’s successes, and also about the decisions that led to Wes’s life in prison sentence. The book begged the question: are people products of their environment? There is no definitive answer, but the story leads the reader to look at his own perspective and answer the question himself. I believe that environment and circumstances absolutely create paths for people, but they do not decide the path for the person. A person’s decisions and hard work essentially forge new paths for an individual to take, and if the decisions are positive, it is likely that the outcome will be positive as well. This story reinforced class concepts; for example I learned so much about how society can affect the circumstances for a person. In this case, race played a part in both of the men’s lives several times. It also presented how toxic drugs can be to family life, and how important a family support system is. Wes is now a 33 year old grandfather and is still serving his time in prison. The author Wes is a bestselling writer, and he works in the white house and on wall street. The impact of reading this story was profound on me, and I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants an inside look at the factors that shape people’s destinies.

(The paper is longer than it should be, but most of that is because I have included quotes, and I assume quotes do not count towards the length of the paper.)

The Other Wes Moore

In the book, The Other Wes Moore, as difficult as it is to believe the two Moores share great similarities such as names and other aspects of life. The Other Wes Moore was written by Wes Moore in the year of 2010. It is the mind-baffling story of the two different kids that had been born to the exact same name .

They were born only a few blocks apart, in the same decaying city. One grew up to become a scholarly army officer , while the other winded up serving life in prison . All of the events in this novel are based off of a true story .

This is a narrative informative nonfiction of two African American males that were nearly identical . The purpose of this novel is to expand one’s knowledge, and dissect the reasons as to how these two people lived the exact same life and still winded up going down two completely different paths . This story gives a better understanding as to why one is serving life in prison, while the other is out living the life that the other never got the chance to experience. “It is my sincere hope that this book does not come across as self-congratulatory or self-exculpatory. Most important, it is not meant in any way to provide excuses for the events of the fateful day February 7, 2000. Let me be clear. The only victims that day were Sergeant Bruce Prothero and his family. Rather, this book will use our two lives as a way of thinking about choices and accountability, not just for each of us as individuals but for all of us as a society. This book is meant to show how, for those of us who live in the most precarious places in this country, our destinies can be determined by a single stumble down the wrong path, or a tentative step down the right one” ( Moore 8 ) .Wes Moore , the author , was born October 15, 1978, in Baltimore , Maryland . He is a author, social entrepreneur , and a hard working – devoted army officer . He lived a troubled childhood, just like the other Wes Moore, yet he still managed to turn his life around . This book starts off by explaining how Wes Moore came up and how he ended up finding out about the other Wes Moore .The real Wes Moore had grew up experiencing a very troubled childhood , but he turned it all around for himself . In 2000, he had had an article written about him for winning one of the most prestigious academic awards in the world . A couple months earlier an article had been published by the same company about another situation, a situation that stuck with Moore for the long run. A couple months earlier, there had been a planned armed robbery of a Jewelry store that had gone completely wrong . The store’s security guard was shot and killed after he had pursued the men into the store parking lot. Two weeks later, all of the suspects had been apprehended and taken into custody . It was said that the shooter, Richard Moore , would more than likely serve life in prison for the murder. It was not this , however , that had caught his attention. It was the fact that the shooter’s younger brother had the exact same name as him .

The first section continues on to explain how the two men grew up. Wes Moore watched his father pass away from an allergic reaction, at the age of four years old . Due to financial issues that would follow shorty after , his mother moved him and his family to the Murphy Homes Projects . It was there , he watched his brother convert into a big-time drug dealer . He was eventually sent to go live with his grandparents in the Bronx, thinking that lifestyle would be better for him . He began to attend high school, which is where his troubles got worse. His behavior was erotic, and he had began to attend school irregularly . To keep him from getting too deep into trouble in the Bronx, his grandparents sent him to Valley Forge Military School . The first night he was there, he hated it and had tried to escape , but failed. With the help of his mentors, he eventually went on to graduate form the school .

The other Wes Moore’s childhood did not have as much of a happy ending . Despite his family moving into a safer neighborhood , his troubled ways did not leave him as easily . He was still captivated by the dangerous lifestyle that he had once lived . His school attendance was irregular , as well , but it only got worse from there . His girlfriend winded up being two months pregnant . He even lied to his mother about where all the money he was obtaining was coming from, but his mother knew better than to believe whatever he had told her . His father had never really been in his life . He never finished high school, and he landed his first prison sentence for shooting a man that had disrespected his girlfriend . Moore then got help and ended a small position in Job Corp. It was then that he decided he wanted to live his old lifestyle alone and earn a better life for him and his family . However, he eventually ran into some more financial problems, and resorted to moving drugs again to get a little extra money . Shortly after this relapse , he became involved in a armed robbery gone wrong , that would ultimately cost him the rest of his life .

The two Moore’s could not be any more similar nor different . On paper, it might be possible to get the two confused . But in person, the two could not be any more different from each other . Their destinies derived from success and failure . One was destined for greatness, while the other one simply was not . Not only portraying the two Wes Moores: the story is an illustration of their families. “ Families are the compass that guides us. They are the inspiration to reach great heights, and our comfort when we occasionally falter.” (Brad Henry) If not nothing more, Moore expressed the degree of family shaping who we are. Family support is everything and without it most have little chance of reaching the success they want to. It is very clear that the author was momentously influenced by his family to make him the person he is today. Him and both Wes had to cope with the fact that they did not have fathers in their lives. Moore’s father died when he was younger and till this day and throughout the writing of the novel Wes Moore uses his father has an inspiration. As far as the other Wes he follows in his father’s footsteps and repeats not being in his own sons life. It is known that Wes’s mother, Joy kept him from being just like the Other Wes. The author began to change his ways when he realized his mother started sacrificing for him. Before this the both Wes Moore’s were very similar. The Other Wes Moore’s family also supported him but at times had a weaker influence. He would get mixed messages. Families try so hard to control their children’s purposes and most of the time ends up backfiring.

The authors family had very high prospects for him. They wanted him to do the best he can so that he could become as successful as possible. As any regular teenager Wes began to get in trouble. So as a mother Joy takes action and enrolls him into a all “white school”. Her goal was to expand his limits and help him form a better life. The denial of Riverdale and weak academic result tends to put a strain on him and his mother’s relationship. “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.” (Chapter 3) She defiantly underestimates the impact that the social hostility of attending there would have on her son. In result of all this Joy then takes the next steps to get him into military school to get his act right. In order to get him in there she has to begin working several jobs. She worked as hard as she could to keep him in there even when he begged to come home. This showed Wes that his mother only wanted what was best. That she expected not only for him to live better, do better, be better, but the assurance he could do better.

The other Wes Moore Struggled with a supporting family. His biggest influential person was his brother Tony, who was caught up in dealing drugs. Tony intentions was never to get Other Wes involved in the drug game at all, but of course because that’s what he seen that’s what he wanted to do. Major factor to this all was that their mother was never around due to the fact she was always working in order to take care of them. When Mary did find out it was not pretty at all. She reacted more than harshly, to the point where she began to flush thousands of dollars’ worth of drugs Wes planned on selling down the toilet. All he had was his mother and her belief that he could do better. So without the support there was nothing there. He became all he knew. Rather than following the voice of his brother and not the action both him and his brother end up in prison for the same exact crime. This goes to show that it is the examples set by family that has the biggest impact of anyone.

“”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 from 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.”” (Part III interlude) As the story went on The Author realized all of this wasn’t just him and the Other Wes has some part of him. That in some shape or form they were linked.

When Moore had first found out about the other Wes , his life had just begun, while the other Wes’ life had just been taken away from him . The connection that Moore feels with the other Wes is rather deep. He had felt some sort of fraternal connection, and the other Wes had felt it as well . It is rather distinct and mysterious . Moore feels like , even though he did not know anything about the other Wes , he is still somehow directly involved in how he turned out . He feels like he is somehow to blame for how the two’s life ended up so differently . Rather than seeing the other Wes as just another criminal in the system, he felt some sort of compassion for him. He felt obligated to find out what went wrong, and what exactly led him to make the decisions that would ultimately cost the other Wes his life . He often refers to the other Wes as “brother”, mirroring a sense of a fraternal connection.

At this point in the story, Moore begins to write letters to the other Wes, hoping to learn more . Though he is hesitant at first, he still follows through , unsure of the type of response that he is going to get . The other Wes responds back, starting off the letter he wrote to Moore as “Greetings, Good Brother”. The two keep in contact, writing each other very frequently . Two years after discovering the other Wes, this eventually turns into face-to-face prison visits . Moore keeps up with these prison visits , determined to learn more about Wes and where he went wrong in life. What had Moore done differently that Wes had not ? They spend these visits discussing parallels between , as well as beyond the two’s lives . He feels as though these conversations with the other Wes can lead to a larger discussion of themselves, as well as the other men who were apart of their generation . Though he is constantly reminding himself of the crime Wes committed, and why he is rightfully behind bars, Moore feels as though he can still find some positive in all of the madness that the situation has caused . Moore spends hundreds of hours interviewing Wes, his friends, and his family, as well as his own, hoping to find some more insight as to why everything went down the way it did .

There are multiple characters that had a huge influence on the way the two characters had turned out. Tony is Wes’ older brother . He is the ‘trigger man’ of the shooting that landed them both in jail. He ends up dying behind bars due to kidney failure . Alma is Wes’ maternal grandmother . She dies shortly after Tony had been born due to a failed kidney transplant . Bernard is Wes’ father . He got his mother pregnant a few months after meeting her, and left before Wes was even born. Ray is the victim of Wes’ first shooting . He survives, but ultimately got Wes sent to a juvenile detention center . Nikki is Moore’s older half sister. She was a product of their mother’s first marriage . Joy is Moore’s mother . She leaves her first husband due to the drug abuse and the violence, which is how she ends up meeting Moore’s father . She has a troubled relationship with Moore, which seemed to get better after he graduated school . Westley is Moore’s father . He dies unexpectedly when he suffers from an acute epiglottitis , which can suffocate one to death if it is left untreated .