Becoming a Man in The Other Wes Moore

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Other Wes Moore" by Wes Moore. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Why is becoming a man an important theme in The Other Wes Moore? How did Moore become a man of honor while the other Wes Moore became dishonorable?

Despite being a delinquent growing up, Wes Moore started becoming a man of honor when he was sent to military school. In contrast, the other Wes Moore became less honorable the more he grew up.

Read more about Wes Moore becoming a man below.

Becoming a Man: Honor and Dishonor

The Other Wes Moore, follows the stories of two young, black men growing up in the inner-city and struggling to break out of the cycle of poverty. As the story progresses, becoming a man becomes a major theme for both of them.

The Last Straw

One afternoon, the author Wes Moore and his sister, Shani, were upstairs watching television. Moore was bored, so to entertain himself, he started pestering Shani. He punched her lightly in the arm over and over again, but she wouldn’t pay him any attention. He started punching her harder until she finally turned to tell him to stop. Moore was in mid-punch and connected with her face, splitting open her bottom lip. 

Before Moore could stop her, Shani turned on the tears and ran to their mother. Moore sat in the bedroom waiting for her. He could hear her dragging up the stairs and prepared to explain everything, but there was no need.

His mother, Joy, entered the room, but instead of the tirade Moore was expecting, she slapped him across the face. They stared at each other, Joy waiting for a reaction and Moore trying hard not to give her one. She pulled her hand back and slapped him again. 

Moore had grown significantly with puberty, and he now stood five inches above Joy. She saw his clenched jaw and fists at his sides. He could see the slightest bit of fear in her eyes that he might hit her back, but Moore would never do that. He loved her too much. 

Joy left the room, and both retreated to separate corners to cry.

After learning about Valley Forge Military Academy, Joy took her desire to enroll Moore to her parents. They all agreed it was the best chance they had to save the boy.

Becoming a Man in Military School

Despite trying to escape four times in the first four days, military school started to grown on Wes Moore. With the help and support of Captain Hill and other commanding officers, Moore realized that people were rooting for him to do well. Somewhere along the way, he started rooting for himself. He was now a platoon sergeant, a cadet master sergeant, and the youngest officer in the corps. He was becoming a man and other young men now followed his command, and he commanded well. 

He’d done so well, the academy had offered him both academic and athletic scholarships after his first year. The strain of the tuition was removed from his family’s life. 

Wes Moore was becoming a man his father would’ve been proud of.

The Other Wes Moore

In contrast to the author, the other Wes Moore was becoming a man without honor.

Although Wes had been participating in adult activities such as drug dealing, his transition from child to man was prompted by another life-altering event when he was fifteen. Wes had started attending Perry Hall High School in West Baltimore. The bus ride to school was twenty-five minutes. One day, he and his godbrother Red boarded the bus and saw two girls sitting together. 

Girls were nothing new for Wes. He’d grown into a muscular young man, and his demeanor was relaxed. He also wore the latest in name-brand fashion and had added to his sneaker collection. Wes was popular and went out with many girls. But he’d never had a serious relationship before. 

Wes and Red approached the girls, each choosing one to go for. Red’s conversation didn’t go according to plan, but Wes and his chosen girl, Alicia, talked the whole ride to school. She was older and attractive, and Wes asked for her phone number. 

The End of Childhood

Wes and Alicia came together fast. They were both unsupervised after school, which gave them plenty of time to become acquainted. After only two months, Alicia was pregnant. 

Wes was bereft over the news of his unborn child. Teen pregnancy was not uncommon in Baltimore, with one in every ten teenage girls giving birth in 1991. He’d never thought about his future, so he wasn’t worried about losing anything he’d planned for. The problem was that this baby would create a change in his life he was unprepared for. 

Wes had only encountered his father three times, and the last time, a few months earlier when Bernard was passed out at Wes’s aunt’s house, Bernard hadn’t recognized him. With Bernard as his only role model for fatherhood, Wes didn’t put much weight in his own responsibilities as a father. In his world, his mother, Mary, had done everything, and he assumed it would be the same with Alicia. He was becoming a man like his father.

The End of Life As He Knew It

Despite his situation with Alicia, Wes still engaged in dalliances with other girls. Alicia hoped things would change once the baby was born, but she began to understand that Wes would not or could not be the father she wanted for her child. 

Wes started seeing a new girl. They weren’t in a relationship, but they were sexually involved. She didn’t live in Dundee Village, but she often stayed with her cousin who did. The two moved from her cousin’s house to Wes’s house, wherever they could find time alone. 

One night, the girl woke up frantic that she’d fallen asleep and hadn’t gone home. She rushed to get dressed, and Wes accompanied her downstairs to make sure his mother didn’t wake up. 

When Wes and the girl got outside, a built teenage boy jumped up from the curb and started yelling at her. The boy and girl argued loudly on Wes’s front lawn. He watched with curiosity, then decided it was none of his business.

Wes turned to go into the house, but the other boy grabbed him, threw him down, and started punching him. Wes wriggled free and ran inside covered in blood, but he had no intention of staying inside for long. Once again, Wes’s hurt pride turned to tunneled rage. He ran to his room, grabbed a 9mm gun, and stormed out of the house. 

Wes searched for the other boy. By now, most of the neighbors were awake and watching from their windows, including a member of Wes’s drug crew. The boy grabbed his own gun and joined Wes outside. The two patrolled the street, looking for the boy. All of a sudden, the boy jumped up from behind a car and took off. Wes and his partner chased after him, firing as they ran. 

The sound of gunshots reverberated throughout the neighborhood. Wes and his friend kept firing as the boy lunged forward, hiding behind cars as he made a dash for his house. Then, they heard the boy scream and saw him drop to the ground. 

Wes was sent to a juvenile detention center for six months for the shooting. The bullet had hit the boy in his shoulder, and it was a clean shot straight through. Therefore, Wes was only charged with attempted murder. His attorney had persuaded the court to try Wes as a minor. For these reasons, Wes avoided a charge of murder as an adult. 

Becoming a Man in The Other Wes Moore

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Wes Moore's "The Other Wes Moore" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full The Other Wes Moore summary:

  • How two men from similar communities can have vastly different lives
  • What led one Wes Moore to become a Rhodes Scholar
  • What led the other Wes Moore to a life sentence

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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