In Autobiography of My Dead Brother, Jesse is an artist whose drawings help give his life meaning. C.J.'s the same way, but with music; it's all he wants to do for the rest of his life. These dreams help both boys cope with the tough stuff in their lives by giving them something to focus on besides the mean streets (not to mention a way to deal with difficult emotions). But Jesse and C.J. are surrounded by adults who've given up on their dreams—so whether or not they'll ultimately have the opportunity to see theirs through is an open question.
Also worth noting is that, for the most part, the characters in the novel who have no ambition—or whose only ambitions involve only money and material things—end up dead or in jail. Gulp.
Questions About Ambition
Who do you think is the most ambitious character in the novel? How about the least ambitious? Explain your answers.
According to the book, which is worse: never having a dream, or having a dream and then not achieving it?
Do you think that Jesse and C.J. will follow through with their dreams? Why or why not?
Chew on This
In the novel, ambition keeps people out of trouble.