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Themes of Choice and Perception in The Hate U Give, The Other Wes Moore, and Hillbilly Elegy

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Two of the most significant themes throughout the novels The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore, and Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by JD Vance III were the power of choice and the significance of perception. Both of these themes are clearly fused together, left to go hand in hand throughout each book. These themes’ significance is shown through the fact that a person’s choices can be affected by their perception of a specific situation. Their perception can even be affected by the decisions made around them. It is clear, though, that the two themes of choice and perception are undoubtedly interlinked, both having the power to overwhelmingly affect people; even the lives of those around them. One of the most notable examples of the persistence of these themes is that perception can completely affect the choices one makes, forming their reality around the world they see. In The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates, Wes Moore states, “[Bernard] spent most of his time searching for himself at the bottoms of liquor bottles. Mary was left with two alcoholic, abusive men who shared the DNA of two of her children but no husband or dad for her boys” (Moore 23). The Other Wes’s father became an alcoholic and left Wes with his mother to fend for themselves. Wes’s perception of his father’s decision could have easily become that he deserved to be left alone like that. These factors may have resulted in his almost pathological need to support himself and his mother. This possibly became a fairly direct cause for his arrest later on in his life. Likewise, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis states, “… I was the son of a man I hardly knew and a woman I wished I didn’t” (Vance 2). This quote shows that a child’s outlook on their parents decisions may be that they begin to wish they were not involved their parents, causing a massive disconnect in their life and a lack of a proper childhood. However, in this novel the author clearly takes a completely different route than the Other Wes Moore because he ends up wanting to make his home much more safe to live in; more of a community. Clearly, a person’s perception of the decisions made around them has a hand to play in what choices they make and how they decide live their life.Similarly, a person’s view on a specific situation can greatly affect the choices they make in the heat of the moment, sometimes rendering those choices rash or ineffective. In The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates, it is cited, “… Shea was one of the most respected young hustlers in the neighborhood. He was a worker, we all knew that…” (Moore 80). This section clearly shows that quick decisions must be made sometimes, even if they are the wrong ones. It shines light on the fact that Shea had clear involvement with drugs and dealing for the purpose of getting more money to support himself and his family, no matter the cost to his lifestyle. Shea felt he had no choice but to sell drugs, and, therefore, acted quickly and without thinking. Similarly, Starr in The Hate U Give says, “[Hailey] folds her arms and does this little neck movement. ‘Um, yeah? Isn’t that what I said? The cop probably did everyone a favor [by shooting Khalil]. One less drug dealer on the—’ I move Maya out of the way and slam my fist against the side of Hailey’s face” (Thomas 341). In this portion of the book, Starr winds up suspended for fighting after Hailey makes offensive and blatantly racist comments towards Starr and her friend Maya. Starr’s decision to hit Hailey was fuelled by anger after she and Maya discussed Hailey’s condescending and rude manner towards them and how they should handle the issue. In both novels, the characters make an almost split-second decision to fix a situation they felt was out of hand, hastily doing what they thought was right.

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Another continuity of these themes in both The Hate U Give and The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates is that people can easily alter the perception of a situation to support their beliefs, rather than conceding to others’ arguments. Notably, in The Hate U Give Starr says, “‘No ma’am,” I say to Gomez. ‘[Khalil] was getting out on his own, and the officer yanked him the rest of the way.’ She says ‘I see’ again, but she didn’t see it so she probably doesn’t believe it” (Thomas 100). Here, Starr is being questioned by two cops in response to Khalil’s death and one cop in particular, Gomez, appears to try to put words in Starr’s mouth. Because she is a cop, she seems to be alterring Starr’s words to fit the cops’ perception that Khalil was a thug who threatened Officer Cruise when he, in fact, never did. Similarly, in The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates Moore writes, “After my first sergeant left the room, I lay back down and pulled the covers back over myself… Moments later the door slammed opened again… My entire chain of command entered the room and…picked my mattress up…dropping me five feet to the cold, hard, green-tiled floor” (Moore 89). During this section, Wes refuses to get out of bed because he doesn’t feel that he should have been sent to this military school, and that he doesn’t even belong there. His judgement is that if he doesn’t follow the rules, he will not have to be a part of the school. This was obviously not true, as Moore concocted a false sense of security in his mind; therefore, molding his perception to fit his beliefs and what he wanted reality to be. Both novels authenticate each other because they both show that humans can change their own look on a situation just to benefit themselves.

After reading both novels, one might say that choice and perception cannot really go together because humans are not capable of choosing their own outlook. However, people can unquestionably alter their perception and delude themselves into following it blindly. Humans can convince themselves of any view, so long as it benefits them. It comes down to the fact that perception is reality, and humans create their own reality down their own perceptions. This is why both Wes Moores’ paths diverged from a common endpoint: the main Wes Moore had the strength and willpower to change his perception of the world and was willing to change himself to become a much more sophisticated person.

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Based on all this, it is extremely clear that the two themes in life of choice and perception have an astronomical role in changing people’s lives and the lives of those around them. Without the power of choice, humans lives would be bleak and boring, and we wouldn’t have much of a purpose. The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, and Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by JD Vance III all greatly show these two themes throughout their entirety, and prove them to be fettered together. Undoubtedly, people can perceive others’ choices differently, and even choose to perceive something in their own way. These themes are intensely powerful, shedding so much light on both novels and the excerpt, even giving a whole new understanding to each of them. Overall, choice and perception are so, incredibly important to each other, these books, and the human race.

Works Cited

  1. Thomas, Angie. The Hate U Give. Balzer + Bray 2017.
  2. Vance, JD, III. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. HarperCollins 2016.
  3. Moore, Wes. The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates. Spiegel & Grau 2011.

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