Long Way Gone: Study Guide

  • Characters


    the Lieutenant

    Ishmael's leader in the Army. Very charismatic.

    Ishmael feels a special connection to this man.

    Both of them have read Shakespeare.

    Ishmael is willing to do anything the Lieutenant asks him to do.

    The Lieutenant in able to convince Ishamael and the boys to become soldiers to avenge the deaths of their families.

    The Lieutenant used drugs to control these boy soldiers.



    A nurse at the hospital.

    She is able to break through Ishmael's defenses when he is rehab.

    Ishmael considers Esther to be like an older sister.

    Esther never gives up on Ishmael's health and rehabilitation.


    Laura Simms

    Becomes Ishmael "foster mother" when he leaves Sierra Leone and moves to NYC

    Ishmael met Laura at the UN Conference about children

    Laura is a"story-teller",

    Laura helps Ishamel to tell his story about being a boy soldier




    A man Ishmael knows from his hometown.

    Ishmael meets Gasemu again after many months of being a boy-soldier

    Ishmael is searching for his family and Gasemu detains Ishmael. Ishmael helps Gasemu pick bananas and bring the to the town.

    Ishmael MISSES the chance to see his family again, because he was helping Gasemu.

    His family is killed, Ishamel blames Gasemu and beats him.

    Gasemu dies shortly after this when Ishmael, Gasemu and some boys are running  and fighting rebel soldiers.

    Gasemu is shot and killed.


    Figurative Language



    A comparison between 2 unlike things, using like or as



    A comparison between 2 unlike things, gives added meaning



    A figure of speech. An animal, object, idea or force of nature is given a personality of described as if if were human.


    The repetition of similar sounds, usually consonant sounds


    Central Issues

    On page 16, how does Ishmael describe the moon? How does he compare it to human behavior?

     "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 their 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." (17)

    Ismael describes the moon as something people always like in their own way because the moon gives light to a dark night, children play in the moon's shadow and tell stories by the moon light. Ismael notices that people complain about the weather, the sun, the heat and the cold all the time. People do not complain about the moon. Ishmael thinks people should be more like the moon and be happier.


    Why are child soldiers being recruited? What are the advantages?

    Boy soldiers are being recruited for the Sierra Leone Army and the Rebel Army because there are so many young boys who are homeless and without a family. The boys are looking for a "new family". These boys want to belong to someone or something. There are several advantages to having boy soldiers. They are young and do not questions authority and they follow directions without asking questions. They are homeless and have no family and are desperate to "belong" and have someone take care of them. Also, the boys are angry that they have lost their homes and family and are fierce fighters. Children want to please adults, they are people pleasers and this is a great advantage for the military leaders.


    How does the rehabilitation center help Ishmael? What steps are taken to get him back on track?

    The rehab center's purpose is to assimilate (fit in)  Ishmael back into society. The center gives Ishmael a roof over his head and 3 meals a day, so that his basic needs are met. He is given medical care, counseling and schooling. The center tries to reunite Ishmael with someone in his family (his uncle), as well. 

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

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


    How does Ishmael view himself as a soldier? How did he earn the rank of "junior lieutenant"?

     Ishmael feels he was a good soldier. He followed orders and was good at what he did. He made the Army is family and was very loyal and dedicated to the Lieutenant. Ishmael thought he was honoring his family, his real family and his adopted military family, by being a soldier. 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" (144).



    pulsating-to vibrate and beat rhythmically-Ishmael could feel his pulsating heart as he ran in fear for his life through the jungle.

    vehemently-passionate, very emotional, usually with anger- Ishmael answered Esther's questions vehemently when he first arrived at the Benin Home. 

    adjoining-located next to each other-Ishmael and his cousins shared adjoining bedrooms at his uncle's house. 

    interrogate-to ask questions-The villagers interrogated Ishmael and the boys because they thought the boys were Rebel soldiers.

    console-to give someone comfort, make them feel better-Esther consoled Ishmael  when he was at the Benin Home.

    embedded-to become part of a surrounding area-When Ishmael was hiding from the rebel soldiers, he embedded himself into the bushes. 

    malnourishment-lack of food, starving, poor nutrition-The boy soldiers could not find food for days and were suffering from malnourishment. 

    mesmerized-fascinate, hypnotize-Ishmael and the other boys were mesmerized by the Lieutenant's speech and became good soldiers.

    translucent-permits light to pass through, but is not clear-Ishmael looked through the translucent window and could see shapes that looked like people, but he could not clearly see who was hiding in the room.

    profusely-excessive and great amount-It was so hot in the jungle that Ishmael was sweating profusely and blinded by the sweat pouring into his eyes. 

    deviate-to depart or swerve away-Ishmael was walking along the pathed to the village and heard rebel soldiers up ahead. For his safety Ishmael deviated from the path into the jungle. 

    morale-emotional condition during hardship-The boy soldier's morale was very low when they first arrived at the Benin Home because they felt abandoned by the Lieutenant and the Army, who they had come to see as their "family".