The Significance of Fatherlessness

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“In the decades since my youth, I've witnessed the explosion of fatherless families and an exponential increase in illiteracy and crime.” Living life with the absence of a father is difficult to deal with and has its own consequence for the future life. The book is defined as One Name, Two fates; divided into eight chapters where it signifies the life of two characters. In the novel “The Other Wes Moore”, Wes, the author, explains the story about himself and another man named Wes. Moore grew up with an open opportunity while Wes devoted most of his life behind prison bars. At the beginning, Moore had a tough childhood because of the absence of his father and his family need to move in a safer neighborhood. Moore was a smart kid, but eventually his academic performance got poor. As a result, Joy, his mother, made a difficult decision to send him to military school in Valley Forge. The experience was not easy for Moore because he did not like the rules and authority, and most of all, being away from his family and friends. Eventually, Moore transformed into a man of discipline, who was hard-working and respectful. He became a sergeant and was known as one of the youngest officers in the entire American Military.

On the other hand, the other Wes also had a tough childhood because of the environment of his family; both of his parents and brother were involved in drugs. For this reason, Wes followed the footsteps of Tony, his brother, where he started to sell drugs in the streets and money became a significant part of his life. He has been arrested several times because of committing different acts of violence (i.e pulling a knife, shooting) and participating in drug trades. Eventually, Wes realized that his lifestyle of being involved in crime was too much for him. In the hope that the condition of his life would change, he tried to join the Jobs Corps program and worked his best for his dream to build a house for his daughter. Unfortunately, Wes didn’t find the program helpful and decided to start selling drugs again. Suddenly, Tony and Wes were involved in a case of jewelry robbery and murdered a police officer. Both were sentenced to life in jail with no parole. In the long run, Moore states that his family were in the state of success while Wes still struggles with his life in prison. Under those circumstances, Wes Moore addresses the consequence of fatherlessness by proposing that youth organizations should guide and support young people and lead them to the right path towards success.

Indeed, the American Dream is about freedom and equality for all, social justice, opportunity, and a hope for a better life. “The Other Wes Moore" is a depiction of an American Dream in crisis. It shows the struggles of young black men in society who experience social injustice and inequality due to poverty. Moore suggests that fatherlessness is the main reason of this conflict. At the beginning of the story, Moore illustrates the impact of his father’s absences in their lives. He had been a good role model as a father to his family particularly to Moore. In contrast, the other Wes was not aware where his father was and the only male role model to him was his brother Tony, who had been unfortunately involved in drugs his entire life.

They both grew in the same neighborhood, lived without the presence of their fathers, and they only relied on their mothers who couldn’t fully take care and look after them due to poverty issues. In spite of this situation, Wes’ life become successful while the other Wes spent his life in prison. According to Seneca Community Action Agent, “Children with involved, loving fathers are significantly more likely to do well in school, have healthy self-esteem, exhibit empathy and pro-social behavior, and avoid high-risk behaviors such as drug use, truancy, and criminal activity compared to children who have uninvolved fathers.” To illustrate, if they experienced a life with the presence of their father, these conflicts would not have happened because both Wes would have a strong guiding figure in the path that they choose. For instance, to the other Wes, he has no role model to depend on, so he just followed the footsteps of his brother who was involved in drugs. He does not have the support to make sure that he was on the right direction. Due to his situation, the other Wes was drawn into trade of drugs and crime. These are the effects of lack of opportunity to have a good education, joblessness, lack of security, poverty and social injustice. Most importantly, it signifies the importance of social capital of the father in their lives.

Given the information presented above, it reveals that poverty is associated with inequality. On the “2004 Democratic National Convention Keynote Address”, Obama reveals that the reality today reflects poverty and inequality, illustrated by the lack of health insurance, jobs and educational benefits. In the situation of Wes and the Other Wes, it was proven that there was significant social injustice in both of their lives. For instance, when Mary desires to pursue her college degree, she had to drop out due to lack of budget in the government. “The letter Mary was hiding explained that the federal budget for Basic Educational Opportunity Grants—or Pell Grants—was being slashed, and her grant was being terminated” (Moore 20). As a result, she never attended college which ended her dream to finish a higher level of education. She never had an opportunity to create a better life for her family because of the limited financial constraints of the government. Similarly, in the speech “I have a Dream”, Martin Luther King also insinuates his dream for equal rights and justice for black men and women and highlights the burdens that they have experienced. In these circumstances given by Moore, the lack of justice and equality results in the state of poverty (i.e lack of housing and security, unemployment) resulted into the other Wes to be influenced in the trade of drugs in the hope of escaping the consequences of poverty in his life. Despite the unequal distribution of opportunity and privileges, Moore still accomplished his dream to succeed in life because of the choices he made in his journey.

Comparatively, in the chapter “Defining Racism”, from the book “Why Are All Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria, Tatum admits how people were ignorant of the reality of racism in society because of the continuous impact of stereotypes, prejudice, and internalized oppression that resulted social segregation. In regards with the novel, “The Other Wes Moore”, Wes states, “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.” (Moore, 46). This quote signifies the impact of stereotypes by categorizing himself against the superiority of white kids in his school. In addition, Moore states, “My father had entered the hospital seeking help. But his face was unshaven, his clothes disheveled, his name unfamiliar, his address not in an affluent area. The hospital looked at him askance, insulted him with ridiculous questions, and basically told him to fend for himself. Now, my mother had to plan his funeral.” (Moore 15) According to Tatum, stereotypes, omissions and distortion all contribute to the development of prejudice. It is one of the inescapable consequences of living in a racist society. For this reason, this quote shows the negative impacts of stereotyping and assumptions towards others wherein, it involves the state of prejudice that leads to discrimination. As a result, social segregation builds up their environment instead of being united and eventually creates racism in the society. This reveals that exposed stereotypes create distortion in leading people to the wrong path of achieving the American dream.

Henceforth, Moore ended his journey in the hopes that this novel can be an eyeopener for younger generations to engage their life with success and realize that struggles, apathy and pain are part of the happy ending in their journey (Moore 183). Moore emphasizes that valuing the simple act of kindness and efforts can determine the success and failure, and build the foundation of our identity in life (Moore 186). For this reason, he establishes more than two hundred organizations to raise awareness for realizing the greater potential of the youth. For example, “LA’s Best” provides a safe and supervised after-school education, enrichment, and recreation program for children ages five through twelve. Another organization is NAACP, which ensures the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons.

Moore shows the impact of family influence and social capital in achieving success in life. Both characters were growing up with a lack of father figure and turned to other people as an alternative way of their role model. For Moore, Joy became his role model after all the sacrifices she did for the better future of Moore. This made a way to achieve his dreams and allow him to find the direction of the right path by making a significant choice. The other Wes has had unfortunate situation where there hadn’t been a good role model in his life. Mary, his mother, tried her best to sustain his needs but eventually she failed to do this while Tony, his brother, became his role model, where he was always involved in a trade of drugs. The lack of support system made the other Wes to choose the wrong path which resulted into failures. Obviously, social capital mainly impacts the power of choosing a decision and shaping your life towards your success in life.

Given the evidence presented above, I believe that Moore has presented an effective solution on resolving the American Dream. Despite the lack of father figure or role model in his life, Moore suggests that by making the right choices, following the right path to success, and investing in personal relationships with the right people, one can surpass the challenges in life. This led him in establishing youth organizations that are specifically focused in redirecting troubled youth into the right path.

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The Significance of Fatherlessness. (2021, Mar 26). Retrieved April 23, 2024 , from

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