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The Other Wes Moore essay

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Umarah Kabir
AP English Language
Wes Moore Essay

French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre once said, “We are our choices.” Human beings make the choices that determine their fate and the person they become. Wes Moore, the author of The Other Wes Moore, explores this concept in his novel. Wes shows how their environment, education and societal expectations led them to the decisions that changed their lives. While the environments that both boys grew up in were similar, there are key differences that influenced each Wes Moore into making different decisions later in their lives. The book begins with a discussion of their fathers; the author Wes Moore, although for a short time in his life, had a loving father who was involved and active. The other Wes Moore, however, had an alcoholic father who was absent his entire life, not bothering to get involved with his son. The second Wes Moore, unlike the author of this novel, never had a father figure and the only male role model he had was his elder brother who eventually dropped out of school to sell drugs. Both boys were also raised by their mothers but were raised in entirely different matters. Joy was a hardworking, strong and independent woman who had an education and grew up in a disciplined and structured environment. Joy was determined to provide the same for her three children, going as far as moving in with her parents and working multiple jobs to allow her children to go to private school instead of the failing public schools of the Bronx. Joy and Wes’ grandparents were strict and provided a stable household with high expectations and respect for rules and severe punishments for breaking those rules. For example, when Wes started to fail in school and did not improve his grades or his behavior his mother sent him to military school. Joy was a strict disciplinarian. Mary, the mother of the other Wes Moore, was not a strict disciplinarian and did not grow up in a stable environment. Mary’s mother died when she was a teenager and her father turned to drinking. The situation got so bad that Mary’s grandparents had to step in and help raise her younger siblings. Mary was also a young mother, getting pregnant at sixteen with her first son and then later on getting pregnant with Wes. Mary tried to provide a good example for her son Wes by attending college and showing him how important education was. Unfortunately, the funding for Mary’s scholarship was cut, making Mary quit school so she could provide for Wes. Although she dropped out of school to provide for Wes, she did not provide him the structure and discipline a child needs. Mary never punished Wes. When he was young, Wes learned that he could get away with anything like getting into fights and selling drugs. The lack of discipline he received also led him to dropping out of school, a decision that made an impact on the rest of his life. Nelson Mandela describes education as “the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” The author Wes Moore and his family took education quite seriously and put emphasis on the impact education can have on lives. When Wes moved from Baltimore to the Bronx of New York, his mother refused to put him or his siblings in the failing public schools that were now infested with crime, drugs, and poor teaching, and enrolled her children into private schools such as Riverdale County School. Although this meant more work for his mother Joy, she refused to give up and send her children to a school that would not provide the necessary education needed to survive in the world. When Wes’ grades and behavior started to change for the worse, she sent him to military school. Military school provided the necessary discipline to calm Wes’ behavior and give him the drive to focus on his studies. Military school also provided Wes with male role models to look up to and provide him with guidance and advice. Wes’ mentors established morals and values in him and, steered him onto the right path. The other Wes Moore had a different approach to education. Unlike the author, this Wes Moore could not afford to go to a fancy private school. During this time, Baltimore public schools were filled with crime and drugs, with only thirty-eight percent of kids graduating high school. Wes’ family background also contributed to his neglect of his education. The other Wes Moore had two role models in his life; his mother and his elder brother Tony. Wes saw both his mother and his elder brother drop out of school. When Wes saw his older brother Tony drop out of school to sell drugs and saw the money he made from it, Wes found education unnecessary. He later dropped out of school and followed the steps of his only male role model, his older brother Tony, and got involved in the drug game. The failing public school system and Wes’ family background contributed to the complete disregard Wes had for his education. Graduating and going to college was never an expectation or a priority for this Wes Moore. When growing up the author was raised with high expectations from his family and mentors. Wes’ family was strict and made it clear what was expected and what the consequences were if he did not meet those expectations. If Wes broke the rules or his behavior was out of control, a punishment was expected. For example, when Wes was young and hit his sister not knowing any better, his mother lectured him. When Wes did not improve his behavior or grades, he was sent to military school as a punishment. Wes was raised on high expectations and was taught to follow those expectations. The other Wes Moore however, was not raised with high expectations. His mother never raised him with high expectations or discipline for not following those expectations. She never expected him to graduate school and when he did not graduate, she did not discipline him for it. She never told him to not be involved in drug dealing and when he did get involved she did not punish him or try to stop him. When Wes became a father at a young age, she did not seem surprised and did not lecture him on making smarter decisions. The other Wes Moore was not held to high expectations and his mother Mary did not nothing but enforce the stereotype he became. Both boys had lived with different expectations and they simply followed them. The idea that an individual’s choices affect their lives and essentially determine their fate isn’t uncommon in literature. A prime example in pop culture is Harry Potter and Voldemourt. Both had similar situations when growing up but because of the people surrounding them and their environments, it influenced their choices and thus determining their fate. This isn’t just seen in literature but in everyday life. A student who works hard and is dedicated to their studies will succeed. The person who decides to text and drive is enabling himself or herself to potentially end another human being’s life. A mother who decides to drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes during her pregnancy will affect her child’s health. Our choices and their consequences don’t disappear. Those choices determine the type of human being an individual becomes and their fate. Everyday choices are pivotal when determining how someone’s life will end up. Wes Moore, the author of The Other Wes Moore, shows the reader how an individual grows up influences their choices, ultimately shaping their future. The chilling truth is that their stories could have been switched, but because of their environment, education and expectations their choices were different. Our choices determine who we are as human beings.

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