After reading A Long Way Gone, a true story about Ishmael Beah, who unwillingly becomes a soldier at a young age during the civil war in Sierra Leone, one gets a deeper understanding of what it means to be a child soldier and the sufferings that come with war. Ishmaels village was attacked by the RUF when he was twelve years old. At this time, The RUF was attacking villages ransacking houses, burning them and killing civilians. With the uncertainty and the violence of war, Ishmael and his brother wander in the village searching for nourishment and shelter. Through the struggle, the boys commit acts they would have never imagined. Several themes develop throughout the text. The most prevalent theme throughout the story war and its damages and survival.
From the time Ishmael runs from the violence in his village, the focus of his life is to survive. He learns that in order to survive he had to suppress his emotions. He had to let go his attachment to his family and friends and join other boys who were on the run like him. Moreover, although he liked the company of the new-found friends he kept an emotional distance. When they are separated or when one of them dies, He does not have time to mourn. His objective is to survive through one more day and does not have time to think about the killings around him. Consequently, he overcomes violence, isolation, and hunger. During his training as a soldier, his taps on his rage to kill the insurgents. The trainers manipulated them to think that they were revenging on those who killed their families. They were also forced to used drugs and watch violent films. As Ishmaels notes, The idea of death didnt cross my mind at all and killing had become as easy as drinking water. My mind had not only snapped during the first killing, but it had also stopped making remorseful records. (Beah 122)
Additionally, the book also sheds light on the damages caused by war. The pain of losing loved ones is compounded by the uncertainties caused by war. Although the boys had attempted to search for a save heaven from war, they knew from the experience, that such a place did not exist. Each new village that they went to brought either hostility or hopelessness regarding isolation and desolation (Beah 69). Young Ishmaels felt that there was no place he could call home and any goals he set seemed impossible. He becomes addicted to drugs and violence; this tamps down not only his fear but also his humanity. The violence also kills civilization. As noted in the book, before the war, children of his age would never raise their voices on adults. However, the rebels had no respect for anyone. As a result, when the boys were together they were taken as devils. The violence had brought about the disorder and both personal and community mistrust. When Ishmael arrived at his home in Benin, it was hard to access feelings about the losses he experienced. After an extended period of subverting his beliefs, he was not willing to speak about the experience because he had already given up hope for life. Only after therapy, that he was able to tell the story.
BIBLIOGRAPHY Beah, Ishmael. A Long Way Gone : Memoirs Of A Boy Soldier. Toronto: Penguin Canada, 2014.
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