[2015] Kevin Kowalski: A Long Way Gone

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[2015] Kevin Kowalski: A Long Way Gone

A Long Way Goneby Ishmael Beah

"We must strive to be like the moon."

"A Long Way Gone" by Ishmael Beah is a memoir about a child stuggling to survival the war that is occuring in Sierra Leone. Him and and his friends face many problems that they must overcome to survive and live their life.






"We went two more times week and I had no problem shooting my gun." (Beah 120)

Ishmael has always been afraid of war and would run away from it if it were happening near him. He would take no chances no matter how much guilt or sorrow he felt. Once he reached Yele all that he stood for was destroyed. Ishmael was trained to kill everything moving that didn’t have a green bandana on. When he was brought into his first fight most of his friends died and he could no longer hold back his fear and emotions. Ishmael has turned from being a harmful little boy into a killer.

"When we coversed with each other, we talked only about the war movies and how impress we were with the way either the lieutenent, the corporal, or one of us had killed someone." (Beah 124)

The war has been a huge impact on Ishmael’s life and he changes throughout the whole war. When the war begins he does not really understand what is happening to him and his family. As he sees people on the ground with blood running from their bodies he starts to grasp the idea. While he walks with his friends they talk about music and laugh, but the change. Now Ishmael is a child soldier and likes to talk about killing and other violence. Becoming a child soldier has greatly change Ishmael for the worse.

"I threw the Walkman at her and left, putting my fingers in my ears so I could not hear her say 'It's not your fault.'" (Beah 160)

Ishmael’s life is one big story with many different mysteries. When Ishmael first got the Walkman he was very happy and hugged Esther for her kindness. The cassette tape symbolizes his humanity of when he was a child before the war. As he is listening to the music Esther says “It’s not your fault.” This sentence irritates Ismael every time he hears it. All of the staff members repeat this sentence again and again to a point that when Ishmael hears it he becomes furious. As he is leaving Esther’s room he throws the cassette tape at her and puts his fingers in his ears so he couldn’t hear “It’s not your fault.” This shows that Ishmael’s humanity is lost through fighting in the war.

"You have been a great soldier snd you all know that you are part of this brotherhood. I am very proud to have served my country with you boys. But your work here is done, and I must send you off. These men will put you in school and find you another life." (Beah 129)

Ishmael is now experiencing a very important turning point in his life. He will no longer be in the gruesome war and witness death or gore. Ishmael does not know that he is going to have the opportunity to have a better life. He is brainwashed from all the talks that his commander gave him, he does not know anything othet than war or violence. Ishmarl is being taken to a new life, but he does not know what a better life or good life is, so he resorts to anger and his old life.

"The war memories had formed a barrier that I had to break in odrer to think about any mement in my life before war." (Beah 149)

When Ishmael first joined the army he was scared, but learned how to kill the rebels. Ishmael's life is now changing for the better, but he feels anger because he does not know how to handle the opportunity he is getting. Ishmael's memories from the war are still embedded inside of his head. Since Ishmael is now off drugs he starts feeling guilt for all the people that he murdered. Although Ishmael is trying to change the images in his head are holding him back.

Theme Obviously by Ishmael becoming a child soldier would result in a loss of humanity. Humanity is a continuous theme that is seen again and again throughout A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah. The challenges that Ishmael’s had to face as a child make him lose his humanity so that he could survive. The biggest part of when he lost his humanity is when he starts to murder the rebels. When he in the war against the rebels he becomes a monster and thinks, “Before I shot each man, I looked at him and saw how his eyes gave up hope and steadied before I pulled the trigger. I found their somber eyes irritating.” (Beah 191) Ishmael has no feelings for the people he kills because all he wants to do is get revenge. Ishmael wants to fix his life, but he is so brainwashed with war memories he does not have a choice. Esther, a friend that Ishmael met in the rehabilitation center, tries to help him recover what he is missing, his humanity. As Ishmael is getting ready to speak in the UN Economic and Social Council chamber he starts talking from the heart and realizes that, “I join the army to avenge the deaths if my family and to survive, but I’ve come to learn that if I am going to take revenge, in that process I will kill another person whose family will want revenge; then revenge and revenge and revenge will never come to an end…” (Beah 199) His speech in a clear statement that he has been able to regain his humanity. The war has reached his new home so Ishmael is forced to move to New York in order to keep his regained humanity. There he makes many friends and starts to relive life as a normal child.


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