The Other Wes Moore Summary and Study Guide
SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 29-page guide for “The Other Wes Moore” by Wes Moore includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 8 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 10 important quotes, discussion questions, and key themes like Identity and Choices vs. Fate.
The Other Wes Moore is a narrative non-fiction story that chronicles the lives of two young African-American men that share the same name: Wes Moore. The author was inspired to write this story because of this fact and their similar start in Baltimore, Maryland. While one Wes Moore was sentenced to life in prison, the author Wes Moore became a Rhodes Scholar and a best-selling author. Moore’s purpose in writing the story is to examine how two people with such similar backgrounds can end up with completely different lives.
The first section highlights the fact that both Wes Moores grew up without fathers. The author’s father died in front of him at the age of three from a severe allergic reaction. The other Wes Moore barely knew his own father. Both mothers of the two men were working hard towards setting their families right, but Mary Moore’s (the other Wes Moore’s mother) chances narrowed when her ability to finish her degree at Johns Hopkins University slipped through her fingers as she lost the opportunity to use Pell Grants. Because of financial difficulties, Mary had to move her family to the Murphy Homes Projects in West Baltimore. Here, Wes’s older brother Tony became a drug hustler while Wes watched. It is here that we first learn that Wes has quite a temper. He received his first arrest at middle-school age.
After his father died, Wes Moore’s (the author) family relocated to the Bronx to live with his grandparents. His grandparents had strict rules for their safety and protection, and Wes struggled in school. He attended a private school called Riverdale Country School and his struggles came from not feeling a sense of belonging. He started to attend irregularly. Even though it was a school in the Bronx, Wes was still reminded daily of how much poorer he was than his schoolmates. In a desperate attempt to keep Wes from getting himself into trouble in the Bronx, his grandparents funded his career at Valley Forge Military School. The first night there, Wes hated it and tried to escape. However, with the watchful eye of some strong mentors, Wes was able to graduate from Valley Forge and move on to a bright future.
The other Wes Moore’s adolescence wasn’t as successful. Even though his family moved to a safer neighborhood in Dundee Village on the outskirts of Baltimore City, Wes was still lured by the world of drugs. Wes’s attendance at school was erratic. His girlfriend of two months, Alicia, became pregnant while Wes was making serious money hustling. Wes lied to his family and said that his money was coming from DJ’ing gigs, but Tony knew better. Wes never finished high school and ended up in prison for shooting a man who came to one of his girlfriend’s house and challenged her. After trying to revive the mother of two of his children from a heroin high, Wes approached his friend Levy for advice and help about getting out of the drug trade. Levy left a few months earlier and helped Wes get set up with the Job Corps. During the nine months that Wes attended the Job Corps, he honed his skills in carpentry and was at his happiest. However, once leaving and trying to make an honest living, Wes learned how very little money he could make and began “cooking coke” again. Soon after, Wes became involved in an armed jewelry store robbery that ended with one guard being shot and killed. Wes and his brother Tony were apprehended in Philadelphia and sentenced to life in prison.
The author Wes Moore returned to Baltimore because he was accepted into Johns Hopkins University for his undergraduate degree and also offered an internship with Mayor Schmoke of Baltimore. While meeting with him about his upcoming semester in South Africa, Schmoke spoke of the possibility of Wes becoming a Rhodes Scholar. Wes’s experience in South Africa enlightened his understanding of apartheid, and although his upbringing in the Bronx was not privileged, it was certainly nowhere near as poor as those in South Africa. His host family taught him that, “It’s not the process you should focus on; it’s the joy you will feel after you go through the process” (170). After his time in South Africa, he then went on to earn his Master’s degree in international relations in Oxford. He worked alongside Condoleezza Rice in the Department of Homeland Security before working on Wall Street. After this, Wes served with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan for several months.