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A Long Way Gone: an Autobiographical Novel

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A Long Way Gone Essay The autobiography A Long Way Gone, by Ishmael Beah, is about a young boy who lived in Sierra Leone with his family. The boy, Ishmael, was exposed to war in his country at the young age of twelve and was forced away from his family by the Rebels and their violent treatment of civilians. While Ishmael was on the run, the raw cruelty and inhumanity of the Rebels actions affected him mentally and emotionally in a way he may never heal from. The only thing that kept this young boy from giving up all hope on ever living a peaceful life again was the search for his family. When he was told of their location and finally had hope of seeing them, it was ripped away from him when the Rebels killed them before he even got any chance of contact. Shortly after this devastating event, Ishmael was captured by the government army and recruited as a soldier. He suffered through a horror, drug, and war filled two years before he was brought to a camp to be rehabilitated and treated for his mental, emotional, and physical wounds that he suffered during the war. The process was long and hard but after a trip to New York City and participation in a conference for young adults from all over the world, I could see Ishmael beginning to open up and confront his past and the fears that came with it. Out of all the events and chapters in the book, chapter 12 had the greatest impact on Ishmael, was the most important chapter, and part of the knowledge I gained from the book was from this chapter.

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As the story progressed, I notice that chapter 12 was the most influential to Ishmael’s life. This was the chapter in which Ishmael was captured by the government army and brought to one of their camps. Life there was as good as it had been for a while for Ishmael and at first he and his fellow travelers thought they had found safety and protection by staying at the army camp; however, they were soon forced to join the army and grow up very quickly in order to stay alive. This chapter was prominent to me when I was considering Ishmaels life because this was where he is fully exposed to the crude violence and bloodshed in the war. Not only did he witness it, but he was also forced to take part in it. The war became his life and his fear for the Rebels was pounded into pure and unrelenting hate. Ishmael and the other boys that were recruited were constantly reminded of their hate for the Rebels. Once, during training, a more experienced soldier was telling the boys the brutal ways in which to kill a Rebel and he then justified it by saying, “Remember, he probably killed your parents worse.” (Beah, 112) and “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). Ishmael’s childhood was cut off in no less than a week and he was forced into a world that even most adults couldn’t handle. Whether he liked it or not, this part of his life, this chapter, would change him forever. Chapter 12 was not only the most influential chapter to Ishmael, it was also significant to the rest of the story. Throughout this chapter, Ishmael learned and taught us about the government army and life in it. He was exposed to drugs and we were exposed to the brutality and primitive ways of the soldiers. Without this time in his life, Ishmael would not have gone to rehabilitation camp and found his uncle. He wouldn’t have had the opportunity to go to the United Nations First International Children’s Parliament in New York and he wouldn’t have eventually escaped Sierra Leone and gone to live in the United States. His life would not have gone on this path and his story would not exist without the events in chapter 12. I learned many things from this book and one of the most informing chapters was chapter 12. In this chapter I learned about activities in the camp and a person’s tendency to attempt thinking about familiar things to help pretend that they were not living in a war. Ishmael and his commander talked about Shakespeare and books, other boys told stories. They did these things to take their minds away from horrors of war. The book also taught me about a different culture. Sierra Leone is a place where most everyone speaks two or more languages. Parents get divorced, kids go to school, and families do chores and socialize. These things are so similar to our culture but things like the war and child soldiers are so different. The contradictions and similarities in this book are what taught me the most about Ishmael and his life. He was only twelve and he lost his parents and had to run, with no chance to grieve. He joined the army as a teen and killed people to take revenge. He traveled around the world and started a new life in a place he has only been once. Ishmael’s courage throughout the story taught me a valuable lesson about thankfulness and determination.

Ishmael was faced with many challenges throughout his life and the way he later portrayed them allowed me to follow his story and feel the emotions he was with maximum understanding and intensity. A few of the chapters of his life and of this book stood out to me. The most noticeable was chapter 12 because of its great impact on Ishmael’s life. This chapter was also extremely important to the rest of Ishmael’s story and it taught me many things about adaptation and emotional batter. Ishmaels story was a truly compelling one about perseverance, adaptation, hope, and a boy who had all of those things and survived because of them.

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