A Long Way Gone Literature Essay Sample
A Long Way Gone is an emotional and powerful memoir. The author: Ishmael Beah tells the reader of his life back in Sierra Leone starting when he was 12 years old during the civil war. From being separated from his family to wandering aimlessly from village to village, to next being recruited as a child soldier. Through his eyes, we see the life and mentality of a child thrown into warfare, and how it transforms them. Through the story we see him go on a journey from an ordinary care-free kid captivated by rap music, to a numb broken-down soldier, that is now a shell of his former self. Trying to rehabilitate himself back into normal life and society. As well as how it affects the many other Ishmael sees and encounters. Our first insight of this is “Families who had walked hundreds of miles told how relatives had been killed and their houses burned.” (Pg. 5)
This is a fascinating book. At first, I thought I wouldn't care for this book, but it quickly changed as the story progressed. Especially, since the setting really hit home. My mom and the majority of her side of the family are from Sierra Leone. Up till now, I never knew a war took place there since in the stories she would tell about her home, a war was never mentioned. Lucky, when I asked her about it she told me that she had already left Sierra Leone for America 2 years before. My grandma, aunt, and others escaped to the Gambia, and lived there for a while, before completely leaving the country. Through reading this book I feel like I got to see another side of my mom's homelands that wasn’t rainbows and sunshine. It opened my eyes as to why my mom is so adamant about sending barrels of items, and money overseas to family because we have to look out for each other.
What I liked most is how Beah doesn’t sugarcoat anything. He gives the reader a horrifying and appalling descriptive vision of what the war truly was, and how monsters people could become. He doesn’t leave one detail out no matter how upsetting it is. One of the many examples is “They had blood on their clothes, and one of them carried the head of a man, which he held by the hair.” (Pg. 96)
Another is one can feel and understand the struggle of the rehabilitated soldiers. At the end of the day, these are still kids. Kids who in a way have been brainwashed into a life never meant for them. “We broke into the mini-hospital and stole some pain relievers - white tables and off white - and red and yellow capsules.” (Pg. 139) It builds another layer of hurt and sympathy you can not but helps to feel towards them. While you will probably never be in this situation, one can certainly feel the description these boys are going through. Now that the drugs have worn off, they now have to duel with the suppressed memories of the bloodbath they have seen, along with coming to terms with the gruesome crimes they themselves have committed against the rebels, and maybe even civilians from those villages they burned down.
There wasn’t anything I didn’t like. However, if I was to say, the closest thought would be the ending. “I concluded to myself that if I were the hunter, I would shoot the monkey so that it would no longer have the chance to put other hunters in the same predicament.” (Pg. 218) I understand the meaning was to show his state of mind, and that what every choice he makes it’s for the greater good, displaying that he could make a serious choice. Also that the monkey could be taken as a metaphor as the government not giving the people a choice. Nevertheless, I would like to know what his new life in New York was like, and how adapting to America was like.
In general, A Long Way Gone is a true eye-opener on the further insight of foreign war in Africa, and the repercussions it has on its people. Along with the hardships of a child soldier transitioning from the pains of war to the everyday life of society. It is from Ishmael Beah’s experience, that he shows that someone can survive the worst of humanity, and still have a chance of redemption to become a better person.