Theme of Decision in ‘All American Boys’ and ‘The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates’: Compare-and-Contrast Essay

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The significance of the human decision is beyond what can be described with a mere cause-and-effect structure. All choices ultimately influence any given outcome that an individual happens to experience. Furthermore, provided that an individual has absolute control over what actions they choose to make, what they perceive as right from wrong may differ from another. ‘All American Boys’ by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely and ‘The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates’ by Wes Moore encompass this concept in its entirety. Both novels corroborate each other in that the protagonist struggles with the decisions of themselves and those around them. That being said, all choices are made on behalf of an individual’s perception, but given that other perspectives may vary, there will always be positive and negative consequences.

It is an individual’s right to make their own decision, given that they do so based on their own moral compass. As in the case of ‘All American Boys’, tensions rose within the community after Rashad was savagely beaten by officer Paul Galluzzo, the blame being placed upon the notion of racial prejudice. However, in explaining to Quinn why he made the decision he had made, Paul stated: “There was a woman in the store. The kid took her down because she caught him stealing, I went in to protect her, and then he went after me, okay?...I was protecting the lady. I was just doing my job” (Reynolds and Kiely, 209). Paul’s testimony supports that he acted on his own moral compass. Though it may not have been the correct decision, his perspective of the situation altered his choice and consequently influenced the surrounding community.

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Likewise, Rashad’s father had acted similarly on his own accord in that he had shot a young black male in the belief that he was about to pull out a weapon. In reflecting on the moment to Rashad he explains that he “had been in so many other situations where things had gotten crazy. A hand goes in a pocket and out comes a pistol or a blade. And all I could think about was making it home to you, Spoony, and your mother” (Reynolds and Kiely, 235). The stigma of the ‘typical’ criminal had ultimately influenced Rashad’s father. His previous experiences had all involved similar circumstances, and he was only attempting to prevent another dangerous incident by choosing to shoot the young man. Like Paul, Rashad’s father had based his decision on his moral compass. He chose to do what was right given the context of the situation and, as a result, had to face the consequences. Granted, Rashad’s father explains that he had made his decision under the mindset of coming home to his family once more. It is not explicitly stated whether or not Paul had thought the same when he arrested Rashad, but he did in fact act on his own instinct, just like Rashad’s father.

Given that perception affects decision-making, the perspective of one’s situation may also be interpreted differently by others. In ‘The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates’, the other Wes Moore was faced with the constant struggle of financial limitations. Consequently, he was often involved in the drug industry in order to provide his families an income, despite being reminded of the dangers by his older brother, Tony. Wes sought change by enrolling in the Job Corps program, but it soon became evident that having multiple families was “breaking Wes down. Alicia complained that he was not giving her enough money to provide for the kids they shared. Cheryl was now constantly calling him about wanting more time with the kids-which meant she wanted more money to take care of them. His mother needed more money because she was raising both Wes’s and Tony’s kids” (Moore, 145). Wes was disadvantaged by the fact that he needed to provide for multiple people. One may disagree with the distribution of drugs as a source of income. However, to Wes, the drug industry was the only viable solution to provide for Alicia, Cheryl, and his mother. Despite this, his decision to continue to be involved with drugs only lead to a downward spiral in that he began to partake in more dangerous tasks to receive money.

That being said, the consequence of an individual’s decision has the potential to yield both positive and negative effects. This is explicitly described by Colonel Murphy in ‘The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates’, where he says: “When it is time for you to leave this school, leave your job, or even leave this earth, you make sure you have worked hard to make sure it mattered you were ever here” (Moore, 133). Murphy emphasizes that the choices made by an individual are what truly contributes to their significance in the world. Wes Moore, the author of the novel, lived a childhood of poverty, often slacked in his education, and maintained a rather rebellious attitude. Because of this, his relationship with his mother began to deteriorate and she was eventually convinced to send him to Valley Forge Military Academy. Moore was disciplined and following Murphy’s words decided to pursue the position as a second lieutenant in the Army. His decision to have no motivation towards school indeed hurt his relationship with his mother. But by doing so, Moore was allowed to restructure his life and found a deep passion for the military.

It can be argued that some decisions directly have either a positive or a negative outcome. For example, it can be said Paul Galluzzo’s decision to arrest Rashad in ‘All American Boys’ was solely negative. It fueled the hatred of the surrounding community and opened the conversation to racial prejudice and police brutality. Though that may be true, Rashad’s incident accomplished much more than infuriating the community. It sparked the movement in which supporters would march for Rashad; the community utilized their outrage in a protest that would tackle the notion of racism. As stated by Quinn, “That’s why I was marching. Nothing was going to change unless we did something about it. We! White people! We had to stand up and say something about it goo, because otherwise it was just like what one of those posters in the crowd outside school said: OUR SILENCE IS ANOTHER KIND OF VIOLENCE” (Reynolds and Kiely, 292). Paul’s decision to beat and arrest Rashad, though he based it on his moral compass, was indeed unjust. But the significance of the event encouraged the community to take action and express their thoughts in the form of protest. There was not a sole outcome, but rather a combination of both positive and negative results. What had happened to Rashad was unfortunate, but the community refused to remain silent, as Quinn had described, and avidly challenged the concepts of racial prejudice and police brutality through the march.

Furthermore, I have personally experienced a decision that I made in which it was never entirely positive or negative. Like Quinn in ‘All American Boys’, I was faced with the conflict of expressing my thoughts following the events of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. It was difficult for me on whether or not I wanted to participate in the school walkouts that were taking place. The intention was to honor the victims of the shooting, as well as attract the government’s attention to consider reformation of firearm laws. Though very reasonable, I did not feel confident that the walkouts would promote change. That being said, I had to either remain silent and conform with those who did the same, or take action to attempt to bring about change in society. I did indeed participate in that it was a step towards a possible larger movement. Nevertheless, though the walkouts did not have any significant influence over society, it was not necessarily a negative outcome. I made the decision to participate, and in doing so, I was able to witness the emotional power that young individuals can have over a situation.

The individual’s right and opportunity to make a choice based on what they perceive as right from wrong ultimately contribute to positive and negative consequences. As in the case of ‘All American Boys’, both Paul and Rashad’s father relied on their moral compass to make a decision. However, given that the perspective of a situation may vary among others, an individual’s decision may not always be ‘ideal’ and consequently will have both positive and negative consequences. Both Wes Moores struggled with unreasonable decisions throughout their lives. However, the author Wes Moore was allowed to improve at Valley Forge as a result of one of his decisions, whereas the other Wes Moore had to resort to the drug industry due to financial limitations. The outcomes of situations are based on certain choices that an individual may make, but due to their perception of the circumstances, the possibility of having both positive and negative consequences is inherent.

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Theme of Decision in ‘All American Boys’ and ‘The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates’: Compare-and-Contrast Essay. (2023, October 26). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 24, 2024, from
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