Long Way Gone

  • "I began to worry, because last time I had found someone in the village who had gone to school with us and saved us. This time we were a long way from Mattru Jong. A long way gone" (Beah, 65).


    Essay quotes

    LOSS OF INNOCENCE FROM THE WAR-ISHAMEL

     

    "We had not only lost our childhood in the war but our lives had been tainted by the same experiences that still cause us great pain and sadness" (Beah, 202).

     

    The villages that we captured and turned into our bases as we went along and the forests that we slept in became my home. My squad was my family, my gun was my provider and protector, and my rule was to kill or be killed...My childhood had gone by without my knowing...my heart had frozen...In my head my life was normal" (Beah, 126).

     

    Our innocence had been replaced by fear and we had become monsters" (Beah, 55).

     

     

    HOPE-ISHAMEL

    "When I was very little, my father used to say, 'If you are alive, there is hope for a better day and something good to happen. If there is nothing good left in the destiny of a person, he or she will die.' I thought about these words during my journey, and they kept me moving even when I didn't know where I was going. The words became the vehicle that drove my spirit forward and made it stay alive" (Beah, 54).

     

    "Every morning we would cast our suffering aside and intelligently discuss solutions to the problems facing children in our various countries...our faces and eyes glistened with hope and the promise of happiness" (Beah, 198).

     

     

    UNCLE TOMMY

    "you can come and live with me. You are my son. I don't have much, but I will give you a place to sleep, food, and my love" (Beah, 172).

    REPATRIATED/FOSTER HOME-ISHMAEL

    "I suspected he had found me a foster home and that I was going to be 'repatriated'--the term used to describe the process of reuniting ex-child soldiers with their former communities" (Beah, 171).

    REHABILITATED-ISHMAEL

    "They know now that it is possible for boys to be rehabilitated" (Beah, 169). 

    RESILIENCE OF CHILDREN-ISHMAEL 

    "I would always tell people that I believe children have the resilience to outlive their suffering, if given the chance" (Beah,169).

     GIVE THEM A CHANCE-ISHMAEL

    "I would always tell people that I believe children have the resilience to outlive their suffering, if given the chance" (Beah, 169).

     NOT YOUR FAULT- (ESTHER)

    The lives I had lived before and during the war. 'None of these things are your fault' she would always stay sternly at the end of every conversation. Even though I had heard that phrase from every staff member--and frankly I had alway hated it--I began that day to believe it. It was the genuine tone in Esther's voice...that didn't make me immune for the guilt that I felt for what I had done. Nonetheless, it lightened my burdensome memories (Beah, 165).

    COWARDS

    famous speech from Julius Caesar "Cowards die many times before their deaths" (Beah, 104).

     THREE WORLDS-ISHMAEL

    "These days I live in three worlds: my dreams, and the experiences of my new life, which trigger memories from the past" (Beah, 20).

     

    A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

    By Ishmael Beah

    Genre:  Literary Non-Fiction, Memoir (memories)

    First Person Narrative

    Topic: Being a child soldier in the Civil War in Sierra Leone

    Setting: Sierra Leone, Africa during the Civil War in the 1990's

    Theme: Rebellion, Search for Identity

     

    Sierra Leone
    A British Colony 1808

    Country on the WEST coast of Africa

    Independence from the English 1961

    Civil War 1993

    TABLE OF CONTENTS

    Chapter 1-Pages 5-17 "The First Time Ishmael is Touched by the War" 

    Chapter 2-Pages 18-20- "Living in Three Worlds"

    Chapter 3-Pages 21-25-"The Attack on Mattru Jong"

    Chapter 4-Pages 26-29-"Hungry All the Time"

     Chapter 5--Pages 30-36-"A Close Call with the RUF Rebels"

     Chapter 6--Pages Pages 37-43-"Every Sranger is an Enemy"

     Chapter 7--Pages 44-48 " The Attack on Kamator, The Imam is Burned Alive" 

     Chapter 8--Pages 49-57-" Alone in the Forest for a Month with Wild Pigs" 

     Chapter 9--Pages 58-68 "Burned Feet and the Fishing Hu

    Chapter 10--Pages 69-88 "Saidu Dies"

    Chapter 11--Pages 89-99--"Ishamel Misses His Chance to see his Family Again"

     Chapter 12--Pages 100-113 "Ishmael joins the Military"

     Chapter 13--Pages 114-120 "First Day as a Soldier, Taking Drugs, Scared and then becomes a Killer"

    Chapter 14--Pages 121-125 "Drugs and More Drugs, War Movies and Killings"

    Chapter 15--Pages 126-137 "Ishmael is saved by UNICEF, but he does not want to leave the Army"

    Chapter 16--Pages 138-151 "We Need Our Guns and Drugs"

    Chapter 17--Pages 152-166 "Rehabilitation Hurts in More Ways Than One"

    Chapter 18--Pages 167-178 "Rehabilitation at the Benin Home"

     Chapter 19--Pages 179-192 "Repatriated"

     Chapter 20--Pages 193-200 "New York City-A Strange New World"

     Chapter 21--Pages 201-218 "Leaving Sierra Leone"

     

    Chapter 1-Pages 5-17 "The First Time Ishmael is Touched by the War"

    January 1993

    Ishmael (author and narrator) leaves his hometown of Mogbwemo to go to a talent competition with his older brother Junior.

    They cannot go home because their hometown is destroyed by rebel fighters

    Ishmael and his brother Junior stay with his grandmother in Kabati

    Family Information

    Mogbwemo is a town in the mining district

    Father works in the mines

    Mother is single

    Brothers: Junior (older) and Ibrahim (younger)

    Do not attend school (money issue)

    Parents do not live together, Ishmael mentions a stepmother

    Loves rap music

    "The first time that I was touched by war I was twelve. It was January of 1993." (Beah, 6)

     

    "The day seemed oddly normal. The sun peacefully sailed through the white clouds, birds sang from treetops, the trees danced to the quiet wind. I still couldn't believe that the war had actually reached our home. It is impossible I thought. When we left home the day before, there had been no indication the rebels were anywhere near." (10)

     

    "When  the woman who had embraced him, and now cried with him, told him that at least he would have the chance to bury them. He would always know where they were laid to rest. (13)

     

    "Mogbwemo was no longer a place to call home and our parents couldn't possibly be there anymore." (Beah, 14)

     

    "I became afraid, since I could no longer tell the difference between dream and reality." (Beah, 15)

     

    "We must strive to be like the moon...the adage served to remind people to always be on their best behavior and to be good to others...People complain when there is too much sun and it gets unbearbly hot, and also when it rains too much or when it is cold. But no one grumbles when the moon shines. Everyone becomes happy and appreciates the moon in their own special way. Children watch thier shadows and play in its light, people gather at the square to tell stories and dance through the night. A lot of happy things happen when the moon shines. These are some of the reasons why we should want to be like the moon." (Beah, 17)

     

    Chapter 2-Pages 18-20- "Living in Three Worlds"


    Ishmael is living in NYC and has a nightmare, a flashback to the civil war in Sierra Leone.

    Ishmael feels caught up in 3 lives: his dreams, his new life and his memories of being a child soldier.

     

    "These days I live in three worlds: my dreams, and the experiences of my new life, which trigger memories from the past." (20)

     
    Chapter 3-Pages 21-25-"The Attack on Mattru Jong"


    Ishmael's hometown of Mattru Jong is attacked by rebels RUF (Revolutionary United Front)

    The rebels violently kill many women and children.

    Ishmael and his brother, Junior must flee the rebels.

    They hide "in the bush".

    "They carved their initials, RUF (Revolutionary United Front), on his body with a hot bayonet and chopped off all of his fingers with the exception of his thumbs". (Beah, 21)

     

    "That night for the first time in my life I realized that it is the physical presence of people and their spirits that gives a town life" (Beah, 22).

     

    "They (the rebels) didn't want people to abandon the town, because they needed to use civilians as a shield against the military" (Beah, 24).

     

    "for young boys, the risk of staying in town was greater for us than trying to escape. Young boys were immediately recruited, and the intitials RUF were carved wherever it pleased the rebels, with a hot bayonet" (Beah, 24).

     

    Chapter 4-Pages 26-29-"Hungry All the Time"


    Main idea of the chapter is the hunger Ishmael and his friends feel all the time.

    Ishmael and 5 of his friends sneak back to Mattru Jong to get money for food.

    There is no place to buy food, all of their efforts to get money was useless.

    Using logic is no longer sensible, the war has changed everything.

    Eat raw cassava (a root vegetable, used to make tapioca)

    Ishmael and his friends begin to steal food.

     

    "Tears formed in my eyes, but I was too hungry to cry" (Beah, 26).

     

    "After all the trouble and risk we undertook to get the money, it became useless...We had made a logical decision and it had come to this. It was a typical aspect of being in war. things changed rapidly in a matter ofseconds and no one had any control over anything" (Beah, 29).

     

    "We had yet to lerarn these things and implement survival tactics, which as what it came down to" (Beah, 29).

     

     Chapter 5--Pages 30-36-"A Close Call with the RUF Rebels"


    Hunger continues to be a major issue.

    "We were so hungry that it hurt to drink water and we felt cramps in out guts" (Beah, 30).

    Ishmael and his friends attack a 5 year old boy to steal the corn he is eating.

    Ishmael notices a change in the "gentle" nature of his culture.

    "Before the war a young man wouldn't have dared to talk to anyone older in such a rude manner. We grew wup in a culture that demaned good behavior from everyone, and especially from the young. Young people were required to respect their elders and everyone in the community" (Beah, 33).

    Ishmael and his friends are captured by the RUF rebels, but manage to escape.

    They decide to leave the village for somewhere safe, but don't know where that may be.

    "The following morning, we started speaking to each other as if awakened from a nightmare or a dream that had given us a different take on life and the situation we were in. We decided to leave the village the next day and go somewhere safe, somewhere far away from where we were. We had no idea where we would go or even how to get to a safe place, but we were determined to find one" (Beah, 36).

     

    Chapter 6--Pages Pages 37-43-"Every Sranger is an Enemy"


    The Civil War is causing people to be very mistrustful.

    "People were terrified of boys our age. Some had heard rumors about young boys being forced by rebels to kill their families and burn their villages...we reminded them of the massacres...This was one of the consequences of civil war. People stopped trusting each other, and every stranger became an enemy" (Beah, 37).

    Enter a new village, Kamator,  captured by the village gaurds (civilians, not rebels)

    A young boy in the village recognizes Ishmael and his friends from the talent show and their dance/rap group.

    They are saved by this young boy.

    Ishmael's brother is depressed, he is not talking to Ishmael.

    Ishmael and his friends stay in this village for almost 3 months and work as look-outs and farm hands.

    Farming is very hard, back breaking work. Ismael and his friends have never farmed before.

    "I had always been a spectator of the art of famring and as a reult never realized how difficult it was until those few months of my life, in 1993, when I had to assist in farming in the village of Kamator" (Beah, 41).

    There is a rebel attack and they have to abandon the Kamator area. All the time and effort spent farming was just a big waste.

    Flashback

    While watching some young boys from Kamator playing, Ishmael has a flashback to when he was 7 years old.

    "I was a troublewome boy as well and always got into fights in school and at the river. Sometimes I stoned kieds I couldn't beat up. since we didn't have a mother at home Junior and I were the misfits in our community. The separation of our parents left marks that were visible to the youngest child inour town. We became the evening gossip" (42).

    During the rebel attack, Ishmael gets separated from his brother Junior.

    "It was during that attack in the village of Kamator that my friends and I separated. It was the last tme I saw Junior, my older brother" (43).

     

     

     Chapter 7--Pages 44-48 " The Attack on Kamator, The Imam is Burned Alive"


    Chapter 7 is about the rebel attack on Kamator.

    Mosque is burned down.

    The iman is killed during a prayer service.

    "The rebels captured him and demanded to know what parts of the forest people were hiding in, but the iman refused to tell them. They bound his hands and feet with wire, tied him to iron post, and set fir to his body. They didn't burn him completely, but the fire killed him. His semi burnt remains were left in the village square" (Beah, 44).

    Ishmael is separted from his brother and never sees him again.

    "I was losing everyone, my family, my friends. I remembered when my family moved Mogbwemo. My father held a ceremony to bless our new home...he said,' I pray to the gods and ancestors that my family will always be together...I pressed my fingers on my eyelids tohold back my tears and wished that I could have my family together again" (Beah, 45).

    Leaves Kamator to find a place of peace.

    "I became frustrated living in fear" (Beah, 46).

    Walks alone for 6 days eating oranges, coconuts and cassavba.

    Ishmael meets people on the 6th day but they these people refuse to speak to him, they ignore him.

    "the war had destroyed the enjoyment of the very experience of meeting people" (Beah, 48).

    Ishmael heads towards the island of Bonthe, where it is supposed to be safe.

    "Bonthe, an island in the south of Sierra Leone and one of the safest places at that time, according to hearsay" (Beah, 48).

     

     Chapter 8--Pages 49-57-" Alone in the Forest for a Month with Wild Pigs"

     As Ishmael walks to Bonthe he gets lost in the forest all alone for 1 month.

    "I was lost and lonely, it was safe for the time being" (Beah,50).

    He is very scared.

    "Sometimes I closed my eyes hard to avoid thinking , the the eye of my mind refused to be closed and continued to palgue me with images.My body twitched with fear, and I became dizzy. Icould see the leaves on the trees swaying, but I couldn't feel the wind" (Beah, 49).

     Ishmael states on page 51 he has a photgraphic memory and this is why he can remember everything from this time of his life!

    "To this day, I have and excellent photographic memory that enables me to remember details of the day-to-day moments of my life, indelibly" (Beah, 51).

    Ishmael lives in the forest near a spring for many days and lives by drinking the water and eating a unknown fruit.

    "The nameless fruit beacame my only source of food" (Beah, 52).

    Ishmael is terribly lonely in the forest.

    "The most difficult part of being in the forest was the loneliness. It became unbearable each day" (Beah, 52).

    Wild pigs in the forest are a danger to Ishmael.

    "the wild pigs have distrusted all humans, and whenever they see a person in the forest, they think he or she is there to avenge the hunter" (Beah, 54).

     Ishamel spends more than a month alone in the forest, but he never gives up.

    "When I was very little, my father used to say, 'If your are alive, there is hope for a better day and something good to happen. If there is nothing good left in the destiny of a person, he or she will die.' I thought about these words during my journey, and they kept me moving even when I didn't know where I was going. The words became the vehicle that drove my spirit forward and made it stay alive" (Beah, 54).

     After 1 month alone, Ishmael meets 6 boys, 3 of them are from Mattru Jong and they recognize Ishmael.

    Now Ishmael is traveling together with these 6 boys, but this is a problem. Everyone is afraid of the gang of boys.

    "Our innocence had been replaced by fear and we had become monsters" (Beah, 55).

     Ishmael and the 6 boys are known as "the seven boys" everyone is afraid of them.

    The next village they reach is deserted, everyone has run away because they are afraid of "the seven boys".

    There is one old man who was left behind in the village.

    He feeds the boys and tells them the way to the next village.

    The old man is afraid to tell the boys his name, he knows he will die before the war ends.

    The old man is sad that his country has changed so much.

    Ishmael continues to travel with the 6 boys, they are in constant danger and mistrusted wherever they go.

    "Many times during our journey we were surrounded by muscular men with machetes who almost killed us before they realized that we were just children running away from the war...When we went to the river to wash our faces, mothers would grab their children and run home" (Beah, 57).

     Chapter 9--Pages 58-68 "Burned Feet and the Fishing Hut"


    The 7 boys reach the Atlantic Ocean and are amazed by its size and sound.

    "We started haring something like the roar of big engines, the rolling of metal drums on a tar road, a thunder exploding, roll after roll...It was the Atlantic Ocean. Even in the middle of the madness there remained that true and natural beauty, and it toook my mind away from my current situation as I marveled at this sight" (Beah, 58).

    The boys feel safe and spend the morning acting like children, playing and having fun.

    "It was a calm walk along the sand, since we didn't expect trouble in this part of the country" (Beah, 59)

    The boys come upon a village, the men of the village do not trust the 7 Boys, they take the boys "crapes" ie sneakers and let them go.

    Walking on the hot sand The Boys feet are burnt and cut.

    "The sun was in the middle of the sky, it was 120 degrees, and we were barefoot...Walking barefoot on the sand was like walking on a hot tar road...I continued walking but couldn't feel the soles of my feet. (Beah, 60).

    " I felt sand particles digging into my bleeding soles...Peeled flesh hung down and congelaed blocks of blood and particles of sand clung to each hanging bit of skin" (Beah, 61).

    The Boys find a shack on the beach. The man who lives in the hut is very kind and generous. He cuts grass and lets the boys soothe their feet over steam, he feeds the boys, gives them ointment for their feet and lets them sleep in the hut.

    The Seven Boys never talked about the past, especially their families.

    Ishmael

    Musa

    Kanei

    Alhaji

    Jumah

    Saidu

    Moriba

    The man is a fisherman and lets the boys stay in the fishing hut for 2 weeks. He does not tell them his name.

    "It is not necessary. This way we will all be safe" (Beah, 63).

    After several weeks in the fishing hut the boys are captured by 12 men from the nearby village.

    Ishamel is worried this time because he is very far away from Mattru Jong and is sure there will not be anyone in this village who recognizes him and saves him.

    "I began to worry, because last time I had found someone in the village who had gone to school with us and saved us. This time we were a long way from Mattru Jong. A long way gone" (Beah, 65).

    The chief of the village calls the 7 boys devils and orders them stripped and drowned in the ocean.

    When Ishmael is being stripped, his rap tapes fall out of his pocket.

    The chief orders the tapes played and orders Ishmael to sing and dance to the tapes.

    The chief decides he has made a mistake and the boys are not devils, just children and they are let go, but must leave the village immediately.

    "there had been a misunderstanding and that we were only children looking for safety. The chief told us he was letting us go, but that we had to leave the area immediately" (Beah, 68).

    The boys escape death, but cannot think or talk about their capture.

    "As we walked, we examined the rope marks on our wrists and laughed about what had happened to avoid crying" (Beah, 68).

     

    Chapter 10--Pages 69-88 "A Dead Crow and Saidu Dies"

    Ishmeal's journey continues, he faces death continually and then moments of normalcy.


    Ishmael tells the readers "one of the things about my journey, mentally, physically, and emotionally was that I wasn't sure when or where it was going to end...always on the move...easier to be sad...I was never disappointed, since I always expected the worst to happen" (69)

    Saidu states "Every time people come at us with the intention of killing us, I close my eyes and wait for death. Even though I am still alive, I feel like each time I accept death, part of me dies. Very soon I will completely die and all that will be life is my empty body walking with you. It will be quieter than I am" (70)


    Ismael spends time remembering happy times with his family, but these memories actually hurt him physcially. 

    The 7 boys spend some time at a village where the villagers are very welcoming, allow them to hunt with them and allow them to join in their feast.

     

    Musa tells the story of Bra Spider. A greedy spider that planned to eat all the food during the feasts in different villages by using a rope. He ended up being stuck in his web/ropes and getting a thin waist and NO food.

     

    The boys leave and spend the next night in a "peculiar village, in the middle of nowhere" really just 1 house with moldy pots.

    Ishmael spends the night remembering stories his grandmother told about the feast that was  held the day of his naming ceremony.

    When the boys awake they find that their food is gone, when they investigate they find that a dog has stolen theri food and eaten it. They are angry enough to consider "killing and eating the dog".

     

    Ishmael recounts how the other boys lost their families:

     

    Musa remembes when he lost his family on the attack on MattruJong. His mother was lost as the fled the village, when his father goes to look for her, the village is attacked again and Musa had to run, "he has been running ever since" (Beah, 79).

     

    Alhaki was at the river when Mattru Jong was attacked, when he went home to find his family, they were gone.

     

    Kanei had escaped the village with his parents, but lost his sisters and brothers in the chaos. Kanei and his parents took a boat across the Jong River, but it capsized. Kanei was separated from his parents when he swam ashore. "The hope of finding his family has kept Kanei moving over the months" (Beah, 79).

     

    Jumah and Moriba, homes were attacked when their parents were at work. They search the docks and the forest but "their parents were nowhere to be found" (Beah, 79).

     

    Saidu's family was attacked in their home. While Saidu happened to be in the attic getting rice, the rebels attack his family, raped his sisters, stole the family's property and forced the family to leave with them.

     

    The boys decide to travel at night and look for food and sleep during the day.

    One day a crow falls from the sky, they are hugry so they eat it.

    The next night Saidu faints from fright but the boys think he might be dying from eating the crow (bad meat?) He wakes up in the morning and they continue walking.

     

    The boys arrive in a crowded village and find out that many people from Mattru Jong are in the next village (a 2 days walk).

    Ishmael is told his mother, father and 2 brothers are together in the next village.

    The boys spend the night in the village and get ready to travel.

    The dogs of the village whine and cry all night.

    That night Saidu dies in his sleep.

    The next day Saidu is buried in a shroud in the cemetery. 

    The boys leave the next day thinking about which of the will be next to die.

     

    Chapter 11--Pages 89-99--"Ishamel Misses His Chance to see his Family Again"


    The 6 boys head to the next village, they are silent and crying.

    When they think about possibly finding their families in the next village they start to sing and dance, but fall silent again.

    There are bad rain storms as the 6 boys continue to walk.

     

    When they finally reach the village they see a man they recognize, Gasemu, picking bananas.

    The boys help him carry bananas to the village, as Gasemu, tells Ishmael his parents and brother are in the village and will be happy to seem him.

    As the boys and Gasemu approach the village they hear screaming and gunshots. The village has been attacked by rebels and is burning.

    Ishamael realizes he has missed his chance to find his family and is very angry and fights with Gasemu.

     

    While the 6 boys and Gasemu are fighting, the rebels return, so they hide in the dirt of a coffee farm.

    The boys listen to the rebels brag about destroying 3 villages in 1 day and killing everyone.

     

    The boys and Gasemu make a slight noise and spend hours running away from the rebels.

    Gasemu is shot twice. He dies later.

     

    Chapter 12--Pages 100-113 "Ishmael joins the Government Military, Loses his last connection to his childhood"


    Ishmael and the boys are taken by the military (NOT THE REBELS)

    Brought to the village of Yele.

    "All that darkened the mood of the village was the sight of orphaned children" (Beah, 101)

    They are safe for some time and do chores in this village that is protected by the military.

    "In the beginning, it seemed we had finally found safety at Yele" (Beah, 101).

    Ishmael is suffering from migraines and nightmares at night.

    Ishmael speaks with the military leader Lt. Jabati, talks about Julius Caesar and Shakespeare and remembers reciting Shakespearean speeches back home for the adults to practice his English.

    Lt. Jabati reminds him of a famous speech from Julius Caesar "Cowards die many times before their deaths" (Beah, 104).

     

    The war is getting nearer and the area is being attacked by rebels.

    "The soldiers never brought back their dead colleagues. Prisoners were lined up and shot in the head" (Beah, 106).

    Lt. Jabati tells the civilians they must either help fight the rebels, leave the village, or if they stay and do not help, they will not be given food.

    "We need the help of able boys and men to fight these rebels. This is your time to revenge the deaths of your families" (Beah, 106).

    "Leaving the village was as good as being dead" (107).

    Lt. Jabati shows the civilians dead bodies and gives inspiring speeches to convince even the teenagers to become soldiers.

    Lt. Jabati says they will be fighting "evil"

    "They have lost everything that makes them human. They do not deserve to live. That is why we must kill every single one of them. Think of it as destroying a great evil. It is the highest service you can perform for your country" (Beah, 108)

    The boys are given new clothes and new crapes.

    Ishmael loses his rap tapes, they are burned with his pants. Last connection to his childhood, his family, his home and his life before the war. 

     

    The boys are given guns and begin training to become soldiers.

    "You are afraid of looking a man in the eye and afraid of holding a gun. Your hands trembel as if the gun is pointed at your head...This gun--he held the AK-47 high up will soon belong to you, so you better learn not to be afraid of it. That is all for today" (Beah, 109).

    The boys learn:

    Hand signals, crawling, eating fast, stabbing bananas with bayonets, using and carrying AK-47 rifles.

    "He mostly used hand gestures...words could cost you a bullet in the head" (Beah, 111).

    Using a bayonet

    "Is that how you who stab someone who had killed your family? This is how I would do it . He took out his bayonet and started shouting and stabbing the banana tree. I first stab him in the stomach, then the neck, then his heart, and I will cut it out and show it to him, and then pluck his eyes out. Remember, he probably killed your parents worse" (Beah, 112).

     Same sentence in training.

    "Visualize the enemy, the rebels who killed your parents, your family, and those who are responsible for everything that has happened to you" (Beah, 112).

    Ironic! Lt Jabati is taking away the last of Ishmael's childhood training him to be a soldier. 

     

     Chapter 13--Pages 114-120 "First Day as a Soldier, Taking Drugs, Scared and then becomes a Killer"


    Ismael and the other children are given a day off, they play soccer and go swimming.

    Their day of fun ends suddenly, they go back to the village and clean their guns and get ammunition.

    The boys are scared, they realize they are going to fight.

    The boys wear green head ties to identify them as soldiers.

    "If you see anyone without a head tie of this color or a helmet like mine, shoot him" (Beah, 115).

    The boys make a promise to try to stay together.

    "We made a pact that no matter what, we would try and stay together" (Beah, 116).

    The boys are given a white tablet before they leave the village.

    "The corporal said it will boost your energy, the soldier announced with a secretive smile on his face" (Beah, 116).

    Some of the boys are so small and young they cannot even carry the weapons.

    "Josiah and Sheku dragged the tip of their guns, as they still weren't strong enough to carry them and the guns were taller than they were" (Beah, 116).

    The boys leave with weapons, but no food.

    "It is better to carry more ammunition than food and water. Because with more ammo, we will be able to find water and food, with more water and food, we will not make it to the end of the day" (Beah, 116).

    The boys go into the bush with the soldiers and wait near a swamp to ambush the rebels.

    During the fight, Ishmael is paralyzed with fear and does not fire his gun.

    Blood and body parts hit his face.

    Ishamael's friend Josiah is hit by a grenade and dies. Ishmael looks over and see that his friend Musa is dead, too.

    Ishmael begins shooting his gun, he is consumed my anger and kills.

    "I raised my gun and pulled the trigger, and I killed a man. Suddenly, as if someone was shooting them inside my brain, all the massacres I had seen since the day I was touched by war began flashing in my head. Evertime I stopped shooting to change magazines and saw my two young lifeless friends. I angrily pointed my gun into the swamp and killed more people. I shot everything that moved, until we were ofrdered to retreat because we nedded another strategy" (Beah, 119).

    Ishamel and the soldiers return to the village that night, he feels nothing.

    "I went to supper that night, but was unabler to eat. I only drank wanter and felt nothing. As I walked back to my tent, I stumbled into a cement wall. My knee bled, but I didn't feel a thing" (Beah, 120).

    That night Ishamel sleeps with his gun, he has a bad dream and shoots 30 rounds of his ammo.

    He is given   few more "white capsules" and did not sleep for a week.

    Ishamel becomes a killer.

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

     

    Chapter 14--Pages 121-125 "Drugs and More Drugs, War Movies and Killings"


    In this chapter Ishmael explains to the reader that his life has been reduced to taking drugs, watching war movies and killing.

    The boys are taking drugs marijuana, methamphetamines (white tablets), brown brown (cocaine mixed with gunpowder). 

    "We were always either at the front lines, watching a war movie, or doing drugs. There was no time to be alone or to think" (Beah, 124).

    He does not "play" anymore he is a full-time soldier.

    His migraine headaches have gone away.

    "In the daytime, instead of playing soccer in the village square, I took turns at the guarding posts around the village, smoking marijuana and sniffing brown brown, cocaine mixed with gunpowder, which was always spread out on the table, and of course taking more of the white capsules, as I had become addicted to them" (Beah, 121).


    "The combination of these drugs gave us a lot of energy and made us fierce...killing had become as easy as drinking water" (Beah, 122).

    Ishmael wins a contest. Who can kill a rebel the fastest, by slitting his throat with a bayonnet.

    Ishmael feels good as a soldier.

    "I was part of something that took me seriously and I was not running from anyone anymore" (Beah, 124).

     

    Chapter 15--Pages 126-137 "Ishmael is saved by UNICEF, but he does not want to leave the Army"

    UNICEF was established on 11 December 1946 by the United Nations to meet the emergency needs of children in post-war Europe and China.

    Its full name was the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund.

    Ishmael has been a soldier for 2 years, he has lost his childhood and become a cold-blooded killer.

    "The villages that we captured and turned into our bases as we went along and the forests that we slept in became my home. My squad was my family, my gun was my provider and protector, and my rule was to kill or be killed...My childhood had gone by without my knowing...my heart had frozen...In my head my life was normal" (Beah, 126).

    Ishmael is traveling to the town of Bauya to get more ammunition. He hopes to see his friend Jumah and the lieutenant there.

    In Bauya, the lieutenant holds a meeting, the boys smoke, take cocaine and "brown-brown".  The meeting is social occasion, fun.

    The next morning workers from UNICEF arrive in Bauya. Ishmael and 14 other boys are chosen to go with the UNICEF workers. Their lives a soldiers is over, they are going to go to a school and find another life.

    Ishmael is angry and anxious, he has never been without his guns in over 2 years, he feels like he is losing his family.

    Ishmael and boys are taken by truck for a very long ride to Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. He is still confused and angry.

    The boys are brought to a fenced compound and given a bed with clean sheets a locker and food. They are promised new "crapes" (sneakers) the next day.

    The boys are still upset and "looking for some good drugs in this place" (addicted to drugs)

    Ishmael meets other boys in this compound. They are suspicious of each other and start to fight.

    The boys learn they were all soldiers in the army. The do not understand why the army has kicked them out, they were good soldiers.

    Ishmael wants answers. He wants to know why he was taken out of the army and is now with "sissy civilians".

    He meets other boys who were part of the rebels.

    Ishmael and the "army boys" fight with the "rebel boys". 6 people were killed, including some MPs (military police) and relief workers.

    The fighting makes the boys happy.

    "No one screamed or cried during the fight. After all, we had been doing such things for years and were all still on drugs" (Beah, 135).

    "a change of enviroment wouldn't immediately make us normal boys: we were dangerous, and brainwashed to kill" (Beah, 135). 

    "We needed the violence to cheer us after a day of boring traveling and contemplation about why our superiors had let us go" (Beah, 136).

    The boys are moved by the MPs to a new rehab home, The Benin Home, in Kissy Town.

    They are searched for weapons this time.

    "They had gotten the message that we were not children to play with" (Beah, 137).

    The boys have not had any drugs for a few days and are starting to go through withdrawl.

    "All I could think about was what was going to happen with my G3 weapon and what movie my squad was watching that night, what good marijuana and cocaine were at their disposal...The drugs had begun to subside in my system...My head began to hurt" (Beah, 137).

     

    Chapter 16--Pages 138-151 "We Need Our Guns and Drugs"


    Ishmael is still at the Benin Home. He is angry and confused and going through drug withdrawl.

    "It was infuriating to be told what to do by civilians...We were unhappy because we needed our guns and drugs" (Beah, 138).

    The boys refuse to cooperate with the workers at the Benin Home, they constantly fight, refuse medical care, refuse to sleep on their beds indoors.

    "We would fight for hours in between meals, for no reason at all" (Beah, 139).

    The boys drag their mattresses outside every night to sleep.

    One night it rains and the mattresses are soaked. When the boys do not get new, dry mattresses they attack, Poppay, the man in charge of storage.

    Ishmael is having terrible migraine headaches as part of his withdrawl.

     

    One day the boys decide to break all the windows because they are angry and Ishmael cuts his hand badly.

    He ends up in the hospital because he has lost a lot of blood and is going through drug withdrawl. Even in the hospital, he refuses to be cooperative.

     

    While in the hospital, Ishmael remembers his time in the army as a "Junior Lieutenant". He tells the reader about a raid on a village he was in charge of. They killed all of the villagers, but captured enough food, drugs and ammunition for several months.

    Ishmael and Alhaji were very good soldiers and acquired nicknames they were very proud of.

    "Alhaji acquired the name "Little Rambo" and he did all he could in other raids to live up to that name...My nickname was "Green Snake," because I would situate myself in the most advantageous and sneaky position and would take out a whole village from under the tiniest shrub without being noticied" (Beah, 144).

     

    Chapter 17--Pages 152-166 "Rehabilitation Hurts in More Ways Than One"


    The nurse, Esther,  from the hospital comes to the Benin HOme to visit Ishmael. She is trying to convince Ishmael to come back to the hospital for care.

    Ishmael goes to the hospital, but he does not trust anyone, he is suspicious. He feels people just exploit each other.

    "I didn't trust anyone at this point in my life. I had learned to survive and take care of myself. I had done that for most of my short life, with no one to trust, and frankly, I like being alone, since it made surviving easier" (Beah, 153).

     

    Esther gives Ishmael a present to try to gain his trust. A Sony Walkman and a cassette tape of rap music. While Ishmael listens to music, she is able to examine him. Esther is concerned about the bullet wounds on Ishmael's legs.

     

    Ishamel tells the reader about an ambush that occured while he was in the Army. The Army was ready to capture a village, when they were ambushed by the Rebels who were hiding in the trees and forests waiting for the Army. They fought for over 24 hours. Ishamel received many bullet wounds to his legs and 1 bullet was lodged in his foot. The doctor had to remove the bullet. Ishmael captures some rebels and punishes them for being shot in his foot. As a soldier, Ishmael became immune to violence, pain, suffering and death.

    "We always destroyed the bases we abandoned so that other squads wouldn't be able to use them" (Beah, 159).

    "I didn't think I was lucky, I thought I was brave and knew how to fight. Little did I know that surviving the war that I was in, or any kind of war, was not a matter of feeling trained or brave. These were just things that made me feel I was immune to death" (Beah, 159).

    " I shot them on their feet and watched the suffer for an entire day before finally shooting them in the head so that they would stop crying...I found their somber eyes irritating" (Beah, 159).

    Ishmael hates to hear that all of the things he did in the Army were not his fault.

    "None of what happened was your fault...I hated the 'It is not your fault' line that all the staff members said every time anyone spoke about the war...I rthrew the Walkman at her and left, putting my fingers in my ears so I couldn't hear her say 'It is not your fault" (Beah, 160).

    As Ishmael is going through rehab he starts to remember his childhood, but this is painful. He has nightmares, cannot sleep and gets migraines.

    "I tried to think about my childhood days, but it was impossible, as I began fetting flashbacks of the first time I slit a man's throat...tried to stop thinking, but I had a severe migraine that night. I rolled my head on the cold cement floor, but it didn't stop...The headache became so severe I couldn't walk...I still couldn't fall asleep...I couldn't face the nightmares" (Beah, 160).

    Ishmael visits a larger hospital in Freetown and is assigned a UNICEF field worker who will help him find a place to live after the war.

    Ishmael spends large amounts of time listening to the Walkman and memorizing song lyrics, this helps him to stop thinking about the war.

     

    Ismael has a break through. He has a dream about his family. "It was the first time I had dreamt of my family since I started running from the war" (Beah, 165).

    Ishmael talks to Esther a great deal and Ishmael starts to belive that being a child soldier and killer really was not his fault.

    "The lives I had lived before and during the war. 'None of these things are your fault' she would alwats stay sternly at the end of every conversation. Even though I had heard that phrase from every staff member--and frankly I had alway hated it--I began that day to believe it. It was the genuine tone in Esther's voice...that didn't make me immune for the guilt that I felt for what I had done. Nonetheless, it lightened my burdensome memories (Beah, 165).

     

    Chapter 18--Pages 167-178 "Rehabiliation at the Benin Home"

     

    5th month at the Benin Home

    Ishmael is depressed because he has no family anymore.

    The nurse Esther offers of be Ishamael's "sister".

    Visitors from UNICEF come to the home to see if "child soldiers" really can be rehabilitated.

    There is a talent show at the Benin Home, Ishamael performs a speech from Julius Caeser and performs a hip-hop song he.

     

    wrote himself about child soldiers

    Ishmael's talent impresses everyone and he becomes a spokesperson for rehabilitating child soldiers.

    "They know now that it is possible for boys to be rehabilitated" (Beah, 169).

    "I would always tell people that I believe children have the resilience to outlive their suffering, if given the chance" (Beah, 169).

     

    6th month

    Ishmael's childhood friend Mohammed comes to live at the Benin Home.

    Ishmael has not seen Mohammed since the day he left his hometown, Mattru Jong, to compete in the hip-hop show years ago.

    Ishmael and Mohammed are very happy to have someone to talk to and remember their childhood.

    They are very depressed about how their lives have changed.

     

    Leslie, Ishmael's field worker cannot find any living family for Ishmael to live with. He tells Ishmael he will have to live with a foster family.

    "I  suspected he had found me a foster home and that I was going to be 'repatriated'--the term used to describe the process of reuniting ex-child soldiers with their former communities" (Beah, 171).

    Ishmael tells Leslie he thinks he has an uncle named Tommy that lived in Freetown.

     

    7th month

    Leslie is able to find Uncle Tommy. Ishmael's uncle agrees to visit Ishmael and let Ishmael come live with his family.

    "you can come and live with me. You are my son. I don't have much, but I will give you a place to sleep, food, and my love" (Beah, 172).

     

    Ishmael visits Uncle Tommy's home. The home has a beautiful view, but the bathroom is outside. Uncle Tommy has 4 other children, they are adopted and relatives. He does not have any children of his own.

    Ishmael learns he has many cousins because his grandfather had many wives and children.

     

     Chapter 19--Pages 179-192 "Repatriated"


    After 8 months at the Benin Home, Ishmael is ready to be "repatriated" to his uncle's home.

    Ishmael is worried about living with a family after living on his own for so long.

    "I was worried about living with a family. I had been on my own for years and had taken care of myself without any guidance from anyone. I was afraid that I might look ungrateful to my uncle...I was worried about what to do when my nightmares and migraines took hold of me. How was I going to explain my sadness..Why have I survived the war? Why was I the last person in my immediate family to live? I didn't know" (Beah, 179).

    Ishmael says good-bye to his friends and Esther at the Benin Home, he nevers sees them again.

     

    Ishmael goes to live with his Uncle Tommy and his family. They have a feast with chicken for Ishmael, this is a very special honor.

     "She made cassava leaves with chicken just to welcome me. To have chicken prepared for anyone was a rarity, and it was considered an honor" (Beah, 181).

    Ishmael's cousin Allie takes him to a dance. He has a hard time enjoying himself because Ishmael remembers an attack of a school dance when he was a soldier.

    Ishmael tries dating girls but it is difficult because they ask questions about his past and he does not want to talk about his life.

     

    Ishmael's caseworker, Leslie, visits and tells him about an opportunity to go to the UN (United Nations) in New York to speak about child soldiers and the war in Sierra Leone for CAW (Children Associated with War)

    Ishmael is selected.

     

    Ishmael goes to the interview in the city, but keeps it a secret from his uncle.

    He is amazed by the city, especially his first ride in an elevator.

    Ishmael is chosen to go to the UN.

    Mr. Kamara form CAW and Ishmael begin the process of getting ready for the trip. Passport, visas, clothing, etc.

    The process is not easy. Ishmael is asked stupid questions "Do you have any money?" "Where is your passport?" "Do you know anyone in NYC?"

    Ishmael gets angry about the questions and process.

    Ishmael meets Bah, another boy from Sierra Leone who will go to the UN with him.

     

    Ishmael says good-bye to his uncle and his family. His Uncle Tommy  does not believe that Ishmael is really going to New York.

     

     Chapter 20--Pages 193-200 "New York City-A Strange New World"


    Ishmael travels to New York with Bah and Dr. Tamba. It is November on 1996, he will be 16 years old in just 8 days.

    He is shocked by New York and America. Ishmael's only picture of NY comes from rap music.

    "My conception of New York City came form rap music. I envisioned it as a place where people shot each other on the street and got away with it; no one walked on the streets, rather people drove their sports cars looking for nightclubs and for violence" (Beah, 193).

     

    When Ishmael arrives in NY it is winter. He is shocked by the cold, the snow, the skyscrapers, lights, people on the street and the food.

    Ishmael and Bah stay at a YMCA, it is the first time he has ever had a room to himself and there is a TV.

     

    Ishmael attends workshops and conferences, all part of The United Nations First International Children's Parliament. There are 57 children from 23 countries. 

    "Every morning we would cast our suffering aside and intelligently discuss solutions to the problems facing children in our various countries...our faces and eyes glisttered with hope and the promise of happiness" (Beah, 198).

    Ishmael does not have a winter coat. Laura Simms, one of instructors, gives him a woman's winter coat, but he is happy to have it.

     

    Ishmael and the other children go sight-seeing to Times Square, Broadway, Rockfeller Center, The World Trade Center and use the subway.

    Ishmael gives a speech at the UN. Ishmael meets Laura Simms, a "story-teller".

    She will become his foster mother when he returns to NY.

    He is sad to leave NY but pleased to have gone to NYC.

    "I was sad to leave, but I  was also plesed to have met people outside of Sierra Leone. Because if I was to get killed upon my return, I know that a memory of my existence was alove somewhere in the world" (Beah, 200).

     

     Chapter 21--Pages 201-218 "Leaving Sierra Leone"


    Ishmael returns to Sierra Leone. His trip to NY feels like a dream.

    "it felt like something that had all happened in my mind" (Beah, 201).

    Ishmael starts school, but it is very difficult. The school has no supplies, it is very crowded and the teachers are not being paid.

    The other students at school treat Ishmael differently because he has been a child soldier.

    "We had not only lost our childhood in the war but our lives had been tainted by the same experiences that still cause us great pain and sadness" (Beah, 202).

    "I also began telling people that Mohamed was my brother, so that I wouldn't have to explain anything. I knew I could never forget my past, but I wanted to stop talking about it so that I would be fully present in my new life" (Beah, 202).

     

    On May 25, 1997 war breaks again in Freetown. The government is overthrown by the military and the rebels.

    Ishmael has gone to buy food and gets caught in a riot.

    "The entire nation crumbled into a state of lawlessness, I hated what was happening. I couldn't return to my previous life. I didn't think I could make it out alive this time...it got too dangerous to be in the open, as stray bullets had killed many people" (Beah, 203).


    Ishmael is afraid to get involved in this new conflict.

    "I knew I couldn't afford to lose my temper. The result would be death, since I was now a civilian; I knew that" (Beah, 205).         

     

    Ishmael and his friend get stuck in town with the fighting. They are unable to get out of town, they hide and wait until night to sneak back home.

     

    The gunshots in town did not stop for 5 months. People are stuck in their homes with the fighting.

    Ishamel's uncle gets sick. They cannot take him to the hospital and all the pharmacies are closed.

    His uncle dies.

    Ishmael is very depressed.

    "I was always losing everything that meant something to me" (Beah, 208).

     

    Ishmael calls Laura in New York, he asks her if he can come to live with her if he escapes Sierra Leone. She agrees.

    He must travel to the neighboring country of Guinea to get to New York.

    Many of the child soldiers who had gone through rehabilitation have rejoined the Army.

     

    Ishmael leaves his uncle's house 7 days after his funeral.

    He sneaks out at night and goes to an old bus station to get out of Freetown.

    Ishmael takes a bus to Guinea, The bus passes through many checkpoints. At every checkpoint their papers are checked and the passengers have to pay soldiers and officials money to get out of Sierra Leone.

     

    In Guinea Ishmael takes a bus to the Capital Conakry, it is 50 miles and there are 15 checkpoints and all of the soldiers want money.

    At the last checkpoint a soldier takes Ishmael's favorite belt and he realizes he does not have enough money to get through the final checkpoint.

    He sneaks onto another bus and gets to Conakry.

    Ishmael finally gets to the Sierra Leone Embassy in Guinea. There are over 50 refugees in the embassy.

     

    Ishamel ends the book with a fable told to children in Sierra Leone about a hunter who goes to the forest to hunt for monkeys.

    Right before the hunter is going to shoot the monkey, the monkey speaks and tells the hunter 'If you shoot me, your mother will die, and if you don't, your father will die' (217).

    Of course, there is no right answer to what the monkey has told the hunter. What do you do? Kill the monkey and your mother dies? Let the monkey live and let your father dies?

    Ishmael says

    "When I was seven I had an answer to this question that made sense to me. I never discussed it with anyone, though, for fear of how my mother would feel. 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" (Beah, 218).