Wes Moore’s memoir, titled The Other Wes Moore, chronicles two lives with remarkable parallels and startling differences. He tells his own story alongside that of another young man, from his neighborhood, with his same name. The author ended up a Rhodes Scholar, a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, a veteran, an accomplished businessman and author. The other Wes Moore is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for his alleged role in a robbery/murder. How do two men with comparable beginnings and early life experiences end up with such contrasting fates? That’s the question that led the author to embark on the book project, but he insists he doesn’t uncover any concrete answers. Ultimately, he suggests that the book is ultimately about “the decisive power of information and stories” to shape people’s lives (182).
SELECT ONE QUESTION TO RESPOND TO IN YOUR ESSAY
1. In the Afterword to The Other Wes Moore, the author notes that he intentionally avoided answering the question about what made the difference between his fate and that of the other Wes Moore. He goes on to say that, over time, readers have offered multiple interpretations of the key differences in the two boys’ lives, and that through those conversations, he realized that he “was thinking about the question the wrong way” (181). Moore concludes that the book is ultimately about “the decisive power of information and stories” to shape people’s lives (182). In what way(s) does Moore suggest that the “the decisive power of information and stories” shapes the lives of either or both men? Consider the presence as well as absence of “information and stories;” be specific in your response. Remember that since the author narrates and shapes the story, your argument should be author-focused, about what the author is suggesting or implying through the story.
2. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story,” discusses what happens–and what we lose–when we view other people, cultures, or regions through the lens of the one dominant story that is most often told about them. Adichie shares that resisting the “single story” helped her understand complexity and nuance in the world, and helped her discover her own voice as a writer. In many ways, Moore’s work is also “the danger of a single story.” His memoir is his attempt to resist the one-dimensional narratives about the topics that intersected his life, and the life of his counterpart: blackness, poverty, masculinity, drugs, failure, educational reform, etc. Identify one key concept in Moore’s book, articulate what the “single story” is about that key concept, and make an argument about how Moore complicates, challenges, or expands on that single story. How does Moore ask his readers to think beyond the single story about the key concept you select? Again, be specific with your response. Your claims and analysis should be author-focused. Incorporate both Moore and Adichie’s work as textual evidence.
3. The story of the two Wes Moores connects directly to the theme of our course and raises the question: is the difference in their lives fundamentally a product of their individual choices, or of structural/environmental forces? While the author Wes Moore avoids making a clear argument about what made the difference between his fate and that of the other Wes Moore, plenty of readers have weighed in with their own arguments and opinions. The mysterious and fascinating thing about works of literature (and memoir) is that readers’ interpretations just as valid as anything the author intentionally includes. So I’m inviting you to make your own interpretation: does the author suggest that he and his counterpart end up where they are in their lives more as a result of their individual choices, or as a result of structural, environmental factors that are largely out of their control? Support your argument with details from the memoir. Remember that since the author narrates and shapes the story, your argument should be author-focused, about what the author is suggesting or implying through the story.
- Your essay should make an original argument, include evidence from the text, and offer analysis of that evidence to support your argument.
- Essays must go beyond plot summary to make original arguments, interpretations and analysis. Essays that lack argument, consist of plot summary, or offer generalized discussion will not receive a passing grade.
- Essay should be approximately 3 pages long (700-1000 words), 12 point Times New Roman or 11 point Arial font,, 1” margins, and double spaced.
- **Essays that do not meet the page and/or formatting requirements will receive grade deductions.
- Essays should use the 3D Thesis and SEAS body paragraph structure from class.
- Final drafts should demonstrate correct grammar and usage, appropriate for a transfer-level academic essay.
- Note that there are a number of articles about The Other Wes Moore. If you would like to incorporate outside evidence from reputable sources to support your arguments and interpretations, you may, but you are not required to do so. As with all essays, you are required to cite all sources.
- Use introductions to sources in the content of your writing, along with MLA in-text citations to reference sources, including the book itself. You do not need a Works Cited page for this assignment.
- Violations of academic integrity, including (but not limited to) plagiarism, use of uncited sources or unauthorized assistance, or submission of others’ work as your own, will result in a failing grade for the assignment and/or the course.
- Students who have not used the One Pass may do so for this assignment, but please note that the final extended deadline is Thursday at 10:00 pm, as that is the last day that the class is active in Canvas. The course closes after that date and time.
This essay supports the course’s Student Learning Objectives by addressing the following skills:
- Comprehending a non-linear, highly symbolic, literary text
- Identifying and interpreting themes in a work of literature
- Developing an original argument, and supporting that argument with evidence from and close analysis of text
- Contextualizing and applying an historical text to the present day