Choices and decision making are vastly viewed throughout the story The Other Wes Moore. Moore starts the story with his earliest childhood memory, which helps give us a background on Moore’s mother and his childhood. If Moore’s mother isn’t the way she is Moore might not grow up to be the man he is today. His mother is a great influence and does what is best for him and his family. In my eyes, the other Wes Moore’s mother’s parenting choices decide the way Wes grew up and who he becomes. The lack of fathers in these boys’ lives also plays a big role. Using both the ideas of Skinner and Maslow, we can see that some of the people in The Other Wes Moore allow their environment to determine their choices while others create their own life by using their freedom of choice.
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Moore grows up with safety and the love of his parents and grandparents. He has the love and safety he needs in order to go past the first step of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. At the start of the story we read how Moore’s mother has strict rules around the house and how she raises her children with rules at a very early age. Moore also has his father around for a short period of life. In those short amount of years, he’s able to teach Moore about proper behavior. Joy (Moore’s mother) tries her best to stray Wes away from drugs and gangs in his neighborhood. This helped keep him away from crimes and the drug world. Joy was a great influence for Moore. Joy’s decision of sending Moore off to military school was a great decision, this shaped Moore into a successful person. Although Moore didn’t get to choose what he wanted, this decision was very beneficial. Interestingly, the second chapter in the story, ‘Choices and Second Chances’ focuses on the consequences of the choices that Moore and Wes made during their teenage years in Baltimore and military school, which is what shapes their futures.
Wes grows up in a household that is practically broken. His mother does not provide with the safety he needs; because she’s always working and he has no father around. His older brother Tony is his father figure, but the issue is that Tony is a drug dealer. Tony is in and out of jail and is not a good influence on Wes. Even though Tony did make it clear to Wes many times that he should not follow into the same steps as him, this was not enough. Wes still went on and did what he wanted to do. This choice could be seen as a result of the environment, as Skinner believes. But I see this as Wes’s personal choice. Furthermore, I think Wes had a rough childhood because he grows up without a father. This must be terrifying for him and is most likely where he lacks the love he needs. According to Maslow’s theory of human motivation, he states, “therefore such people who lack love and seek it, may try hard to put on a front of aggressive, confident behavior.” This tells us Wes probably grows up to have this tough guy persona that sells drugs, because he’s lacking love (Maslow).
Furthermore, the author strikes us with a quote that reveals how boredom can lead to making bad decisions. According to Moore, he claims that “boredom in teenage boys is a powerful motivation to create chaos.” This quote shows us how influential the environment is on both Wes’s (Moore 87). It states how boredom is what leads to Moore slacking off in school and creating issues in his personal life. When Moore decides to spray paint the walls with his friend Shea that was a choice he makes with his free will. Moore even states what the policeman says, “you kids are way too young to be in this situation. But you know what, I see kids like you here every day. If you don’t get smart, I am certain I will see you again. That’s the sad part” (Moore 83). This quote is indicating many of these kids go back to doing the same thing because they ‘don’t get smart” that’s them making their own choices. Ultimately, this started his path to maturity by helping his mother realize she has to step in and straighten him up.
The author’s main influence is his mother, however, the same can’t be said for the other Wes. The man with a sealed fate (Wes) follows in Tony’s footsteps. Moore reveals to us, “Wes wanted to be just like Tony. Tony wanted Wes to be nothing like him” (Moore 72). This quote reveals to us that Wes wants to be just like his older brother. Tony is his father figure since Wes has no father around. Nonetheless, it is Wes’s choice to follow in the same path as his brother. That was Wes’s free will not the environments choice. Wes does not have the need of safety or discipline that he needs in order to reach the goal of self-actualization that he needs from our hierarchy of needs. A defining example of this is when Wes went home to grab a knife to try to stab the boy that punched him. While Wes is approaching the boy Moore writes, “Wes continued to move toward the boy. His grip on the knife handle tightened” (Moore 34). Here we see Wes showing early signs of aggression and most importantly he is not disciplined for his behavior. Mary doesn’t even find out this happened until years later!
Mary seems like the type of mother that doesn’t care for her children as much as a mother should. The author tells us, ‘Mary was not the least bit concerned about her son’s new dilemma… ‘I don’t want to hear your sob story about how much money you owe” (Moore 74). Mary had flushed the drugs that Wes needed to sell down the toilet, without knowing that can get Wes killed! This quote is important because it’s giving us an insight on Mary. In my opinion, if Mary showed more love and encouraged Wes to do good every day, then Wes would of looked up to her rather than looked up to Tony as an inspiration. Though I do understand that he wants a male role model.
Nevertheless, Mary may also be to blame for Wes’s first encounter to drugs. Wes first encounters marijuana when she skips school with some friends. He started going through his mother’s closet then finds a plastic bag. Moore states, “he had just found his mother’s weed stash… Wes gets high and loves it” (Moore 59). This is the beginning of how his life turns out. He then depends on drugs for income. He basically feels free! He has money in his pockets and has girls on his arms. According to Skinner this may be an environmental factor that makes Wes into the person he is. Skinner states, “the importance of the literature of freedom can scarcely be questioned. Without help or guidance people submit to aversive conditions in the most surprising way. This is true even when the aversive conditions are part of the natural environment” (Skinner). As we know Wes practically has no one to guide him properly through life.
Joy made the best decision she could by moving back with her parents. She was working all the time to make ends meet and knew she wouldn’t be able to watch over her kids all the time, so she had her parents watch over them. Moore has the love and safety he needs from his family in order to reach his self-actualization. Having everything he needed in order to go up the pyramid of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Moore becomes the successful man he is today. Of course Moore being sent to military school is a huge influence in his life. Thanks to military school Moore learns discipline and earns lots of new chances along with scholarships. Even though he got sent to military school which was not his choice; he then agrees to give it a chance that day he calls his mom on the phone. I’m sure Moore is forever grateful that his mother does that for him.
Any wrong choice could send Moore down the wrong path. Just like he states, “the chilling truth is that his story could have been mine. The tragedy is that my story could have been his” (Moore 180). Moore is saying any bad choice he chooses to do could lead him into the same life Wes is living. Just like Wes could have decided to choose good things in his life. Maybe then he would have a great life like Moore. The sad thing is we see Wes trying to better himself, but fails. Wes goes to the job corps to begin an honest life. But after returning home the author states, “while at the Job Corps Center, Wes had felt his problems floating off in the soft country air of Laurel. A year after graduating he realized they had not disappeared they’d simply returned to Baltimore, waiting for him to come back” (Moore 145). Though Wes wants to stay out of drug dealing he feels he has no choice if he wants to provide for his family.
The jobs Wes had were simply not paying enough for his high standards since he’s used to making lots of money. Maslow states something similar in his article, “with such values people become martyrs; they give up everything for the sake of a particular ideal, or value” (Maslow). This quote is saying how people give up everything for the sake of their values. Basically, returning to drug dealing was his freedom of choice. He still can’t reach the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which is self-actualization. He has no one to encourage him to keep going. Ultimately, this leads to his end, which is committing further crimes. Wes ends up in prison for life.
In spite of growing up without a father through almost all of his childhood, and making some poor choices through his teenage years, Moore reached his self-actualization. Joy was a wonderful influence on Moore’s life and I’m sure Moore is super proud of the way his mom raised him. Wes’s life shows us we can turn our lives around but sometimes there is a point of no return. If Mary would have did more to try to steer Wes’s life in a positive direction; he could be a free man today! Ultimately, Wes chose his own life decisions and sadly wasn’t able to reach his self-actualization. This story taught me that every decision we make affects our life forever. One bad choice can lead us to making a bad life.
Wes Moore, One Name, Two Fates. (2020, Jun 15).
Retrieved July 2, 2022 , from
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