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The themes that revolve around the concept of this book all incorporate factors in which they either help or create a barrier for African American children. The author talks about the components in his childhood, including the job of his mom and grandparents and the schools he visited, in helping him thrive, while he looks at the other way that the different Wes Moore took, towards young parenthood and the inevitable imprisonment. Throughout the reading of this book I identified that racism, opportunity, and the absences of a father figure influenced the trajectory of both the Author and the other Wes Moore.
The first pivotal factor that has a heavy influence on the two Wes Moore’s, is the parallel experience that occurs with racism. Each of them experience racism, creating a bond amongst the two men, which allows for them to persevere through despite the fact that nearly everything else about their lives are complete opposites. Although the author doesn’t strictly concentrate on racial injustice explicitly throughout the book, the lack of opportunities that is persistent within both their lives (and especially in Wes’s) is without a doubt prompted by the effect of racial segregation which Moore suggest being caused by the effect of drugs, lack of opportunity and poverty that is found within both neighborhoods. A prime example in which, the author addresses the racial inequality explicitly was the visit to South Africa and his description of the township and stated “it was created for the sole purpose of isolating black Africans in small, destitute enclaves where laws were instituted to control the residents and police entered to harass, not to protect”,(Moore 411) and shared that he “could sense faint echoes of Baltimore and the Bronx in the story of these townships” (Moore 412).This highlighted realization reflects that similar to the racial inequality found in south Africa, the United States is affiliated with the same problems of racial segregation and inequality. While the author was granted this opportunity to visit and be confronted with a new image of his racial identity, the other Wes Moore didn’t receive this opportunity but is still forced to face racial inequality. This factor not only marginalized both the author and the other Wes, but It caused for the reader to realize that the other Wes Moore is affected more negatively because of other outside factors that are found within Wes life that didn’t have a heavy impact on the authors life since he came from parents who were college graduates and didn’t experience the high marginalization.
The Second pivotal factor that has a major influence on both Wes’s is the idea of opportunities. Although there were opportunities that were available to both boys, there was a lack of opportunity for the other Wes Moore which caused for a negative influence in his life in comparison to the authors life. A situation in which we see that there was an opportunity given to the author but not the other Wes Moore, is how his mother forced him to go to military school in order for him to “understand that he was in a different environment”(Moore 245) in which his “normal expectations were inverted, where leadership was honored and class clowns were ostracized.” (Moore 245). This specific quote relates to the pivotal factor that shapes both boys because it shows an opportunity that was given to the author and his realization of that opportunity that allowed for him to be placed on the right path of life in comparison to the other Wes. This given opportunity to the author and not the other Wes Moore due to the economic placement in which he was a part of caused for the author to receive a mentorship from the military, causing for him to appreciate the academic life and place him on the right path of life. In comparison the other Wes Moore was not granted this opportunity or any opportunities that would allow for a placement towards the right path which lead to him become a part of the group of individuals who took part in the drugs and gang violence that devastated the city. This involvement put the other Wes Moore on the negative path that the authors mother wanted her son to avoid. This lack of opportunity not only caused for the other Wes Moore to be a part of the never ending cycle of despair, but it also painted the portrait of his life that suggested that given the same opportunity’s as the author he may have never really had the possibility to escape that world, which lead to his imprisonment.
The final factor that heavily influences both Wes’s is the absences of a father figure within their lives. Throughout the book, the author shares with the reader the difference in the absence of a father “Your father wasn’t there because he couldn’t be, my father wasn’t there because he chose not to be. We’re going to mourn their absence in different ways.” (Moore 30)
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