“Identity” can be defined as the ways in which an individual describes him/herself or the ways in which a person is described by society. A person can have several “identities” such as: gender, race, age, socioeconomic status, linguistic background, culture, religion, sexual orientation, geographic residence, nationality, creed, familial connections, body size, and other signifiers.
The theme of “Identity” is woven throughout “The Other Wes Moore” and we learn about the different “identities” of both Wes Moores in addition to the identities of their families, friends, and community members.
Things that are very important, irreplaceable, or cherished are typically considered to be of high “value.” These valuables can be physical objects such as electronics, jewelry, cars, and homes. Loved ones such as friends, family, and pets can also be described as “valuables.” Another type of “valuable” is the more abstract and deeply held beliefs that guide individual’s lives such as honesty, loyalty, punctuality, integrity, etc. These are called “Personal Values.
“Personal Values” is another theme that regularly emerges throughout “The Other Wes Moore” as we learn about the different Wes Moores’ lives, their decisions, and the challenges they each encounter.
Each day, we all make a series of decisions that determine the ways in which we live our lives. These can include small decisions such as what to wear and what to eat for breakfast or involve larger daily decisions such as the decision to go to school or the decision to complete homework assignments on time.
In “The Other Wes Moore,” we gain insight into to lives of several people and we learn about the different decisions they each make. Some of these decisions have positive consequences and others have negative ones. Additionally, we see examples of long and short term decision making by the different individuals portrayed in the book.
“The Other Wes Moore” shares the life stories of two individuals and the various people in their lives. The two Wes Moores, along with their friends and family members, experience different “losses,” to differing degrees, throughout the book. These “losses” include the loss of a family member, the loss of youth and innocence, the loss of freedom, and the loss of time amongst others.
Similarly, both Wes Moores and the people in their lives demonstrate various forms of faith and experience redemption in very different ways. Religion, hope, trust, second chances, and forgiveness are all reoccurring examples of faith and redemption that emerge throughout the book.
As Wes reflects on his life during a trip to South Africa he writes, “His tribe’s influence in making him a man was obvious and indelible. At that moment, I realized the journey I took was never mine alone either.” This realization from the end of “The Other Wes Moore” illustrates the fact that Wes’s peers, parents, family, and community all had positive influences on him.
The theme of “Peer, Parent, and Community Support” refers to the people and the ways in which Wes’s life and his decisions were heavily influenced by the people he surrounded himself with. Similarly, the “other” Wes Moore was also influenced by the people in his life.
In the first paragraph of the book, Wes reflects on an experience from his childhood and says, “Like a dog chasing a car, I had no idea what to do.” Conversely, toward the end of the book, Wes writes that, “Life’s impermanence, I realized, is what makes every single day so precious. It’s what shapes our time here. It’s what makes it so important that not a single moment be wasted.”
These two examples from the book illustrate an instance when Wes did not have a goal and an instance when he realized the importance of having goals. As we read about the different individuals in “The Other Wes Moore,” the theme of “Goals” emerges in different contexts. Throughout the book, we learn about setting goals, the joys of accomplishing goals, and the consequences of not having them.