Growing up in Lincoln Park Chicago, I went to a private school for preschool through 1st grade. Although it was a exceptional school for elementary kids, the education for middle school and high students was not as adequate. On Average, three or four teenagers graduated from the eighth grade class. When I was in 2nd grade, my parents made the decision to move to the suburbs. On June 27th, we all packed into our Honda minivan and drove the 45 minutes out to a new home in the town of Winnetka.
Wishing I could bring my friends and my past life with me, I cursed my parents for removing me from my old way of life. I had to leave behind all of my friends and teachers. Within my first year at Crow Island, my new school, I had learned so many new things. I started playing the violin and speaking spanish, neither of which were offered at my old school. I met my best friends that I’m still close with now. Although, at the time, I thought that moving would be a negative experience, I learned to love my new home and I became the person I am today.
My parents changed my life for the better, even if it meant going against what I wanted. My parents set me on the right track by providing better education and teaching me the important lesson that change is good. Wes Moore did not have the same opportunities I had. He was never given a chance to change for the better, and his childhood environment didn’t support him becoming a better person. Wes’s fate was inescapable, because of the many factors in his childhood which set him on the wrong path.
One of Wes’s, the narrator’s, most influential mentors is Ty Hill, his cadet captain at military school. I had never seen a man, a peer, demand that much respect from his people. I had seen Shea demand respect in the neighborhood, but this was different. This was real respect, the kind you can’t beat or scare out of people” (96). This is really the first time Wes see someone who deserves respect, not because of their power, but because of their role. Ty “demands” respect not because he is a a gang member or drug dealer. He doesn’t get his respect from intimidation and violence. Ty gains his respect because he actually deserves it.
At nineteen years old, Ty has worked to be the Cadet Captain he is today, and others admire him because of that. Wes learns here that real respect doesn’t come from demoralizing and hurting people, but from working hard and being your best. Wes is inspired by Ty, and becomes “… the regimental commander for the 70th Corps of Cadets” (134). He has the responsibility of over 700 men, and will defend the same respect Ty does, from his hard work and success. With all of these responsibilities, Wes has a lot to handle but also a positive job that helps others and keeps him off the streets of Baltimore.
Unlike the previous Wes Moore, The other Wes Moore does not has such a positive role model. Tony serves as his primary role model throughout his whole life. As a child, Wes looks up to the Tony who holds his own street corner and sells drugs. “To wes, Tony was a ‘certified gangsta. ‘ Tony had started dealing drugs… before he was ten. By the Time he was fourteen, Tony had built a fierce reputation in the neighborhood. Despite his skinny frame and a baby face, his eyes were lifeless and hooded, without a spark of optimism” (27). All Wes wants is to be like Tony.
He looks up to his older brother and is incapable of seeing his flaws with the drug dealing and violence in his life. By the time Tony is a teenager, the drug game has made him “lifeless”. Wes decides to look up to this lifeless figure, even though Tony has barely any hope for his future. WEs respects Tony’s “fierce reputation”. Tony, instead of working hard to gain his respect, intimidates and threatens others for it. Wes is taught that this is the only way to gain respect becasue there is no one else in his life who shows him the right way.
In a household, the people and values that surround a child can make a huge impact on their well being and long term success. As a child, the narrator Wes learn early on how to treat others appropriately. Early on, Wes learns to respect others, even if they don’t respect you. “‘Nothing, sir,’ I reflexively corrected myself, even without knowing who made the order. I was so accustomed to the rules and protocol on campus that took me a second to realize I might be responding to the orders of some random drunk kids from town” (119).
Although the kids hassling Wes are just some kids from the neighborhood, and probably drunk, Wes still addresses them as “sir”. Even though it’s not intentional in this situation, the fact that he automatically corrects himself shows the values that he has learned at military school. At school, it’s customary for Wes to address those higher than him as “Sir”, showing respect. Wes may not have respect for the kids in the back of the car, but the fact that he does “respond to their orders” shows that Wes has become accustomed to showing everyone respect, no matter they treat him.
Wes’s ability to show respect and gratitude to the people around him is one factor that sets him on the contrasting path to the other Wes Moore, who has a harder time learning this vital lesson The other Wes Moore grew up with a very different set of morals. With Tony’s mentorship to Wes, he is not taught to settle his disagreements peacefully. “‘Rule number one: If someone disrespects you, you send a message so fierce that they won’t have the chance to do it again'” (33). Because of the influence of his older brother, Wes grows up thinking that what’s wrong, reacting violently to a situation, is considered right.
At eight years old, Wes has been taught to fight back. When Wes sees his brother and the other boys in his neighborhood fighting each other, he assumes that that’s the best way to react to a situation. Values like these are instilled at a young age, they carry through Wes’s lifetime. In His teenage years, Wes continues to mimic these values in his teenage years. “As he left his room, he shoved a clip into the gun and cocked the slide hammer back, fully loading the weapon… Wes could only see red. He was blind with rage. Instincts kicked in. Tony’s words rang through his mind.
Send a message. ” (page 104). In this situation, Wes uses Tony’s advice to justify killing another young man. Wes has no control over the lessons taught to him by his role models, and can’t control the way he is influenced. Because Wes is taught such a violent message that’s reinforced by others around him, he follows the same violent path without even thinking. This impulsivity also contributes to Wes’s decision to rob the bank, which ends up putting him in jail for life. Wes does not have the other Wes’s ability to think calmly and respect others, even if they wrong him.
The two Wes characters learn different morals different ways, and, these morals taught to them while they are young, are a main factor in their adult life. “I was taught to remember, but never question. Wes was taught to forget and never ask why” (4). Although both characters are taught to not question or ask why, the main difference that sets them apart is that the narrator Wes learns to remember. By remembering his childhood through his memories of the past, Wes does not repeat the mistakes he made and carry the lessons he learned through his adult life.
The Other Wes, on the other hand, forgets all the negative outcomes that originate from his actions. Because he forgets his mistakes and the lesson he learned as a child, he is not able to change his lifestyle. Thus, Wes is on a constant cycle of violence and incarceration, because he doesn’t stop repeating what’s bad for him. His negative role model and lack of supervision also contributed to his lack of positive morals. Some people say that the north shore is a bubble, shielding us from the “real world”. My life would be very different if I had stayed in Chicago.
I never would’ve started to run, I never would’ve met my best friend, and I wouldn’t have received the same standard of education I am now. At times, I wonder what happened to my old friends. I don’t know if they stayed in Chicago, or if they moved out of state. I don’t know if any of them are impacted by drugs or drinking, and I doubt I’ll ever see them again. I now know that my life was significantly changed by that one day when we left the city, but was it for the better? Unlike Wes, I do not have a similar counterpart to compare myself too, but I like to think that my parents made a decision with my best interest in mind.