In the book “A Long Way Gone” by Ishmael Beah, The conversation of childhood is not a very happy one. In the start, Beah is an happy child who likes hip-hop, but it all get obliterated in the matter of no time. Innocence and war are two things that go together like ketchup and Oreos, but in A Long Way Gone, this becomes the situation. Beah was not alone, citizens from His country became entangled in the war and had to do things that no one should have to do. Beah was told to murder people in questionable ways and experiment with cocaine and marijuana. People and especially children need to be kept away from destruction and war whatever it takes; Beah’s lost all of his innocence through actions he was forced to do.
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The war changed Sierra Leone's citizens, it weathered people down people to themselves no belongings or anything of the such. The rebels took families, killed them, raided their belongings, capture their children and made them murderers. Beah had to withstand all of it. In “A Long Way Gone”, Beah shows the passing of his childhood and also innocence. Beah discovers how different he was previous to the war when he says, “One evening we actually chased a little boy who was eating two boiled ears of corn himself” (Beah 30).
The lack of innocence began when he and his friends became hungry. The war had forced them into the jungle to fend for themselves, and they had no other option but to start doing rather questionable things for food. Like chasing that little boy and stealing his corn. At this point, Beah has been through quite a truckload and is so mixed up in the war, but when he gets new clothes, and his old ones get burned with his cassettes, that’s where his childhood is forever lost. That’s the time where the innocence went into the flames and melted away. He has nothing to grasp on to anymore to remind him of his old life. All children must of have had their equivalent to rap music. All of them must have lost something that represented their last hope. The way the children lost their childhoods and their identities do not go unnoticed in this story. But the point of Beah writing about it all is to get it out there for everybody to view. He claims this when he mentioned, “Because if I was to get killed upon my return, I knew that a memory of my existence was alive somewhere in the world” (200). When he presented at the UN conference he realized that all of what he’s been through isn’t for nothing. Most of what he went through in the war and the rehabilitation afterward wasn’t just going to be forgotten. People will read his story and they’ll try to help the other kids still out there fighting this war. He can make something good out of all of it. So he wrote it down into a book.
One would argue that this story is merely about a child having to go to war and more specifically speaking of Beah’s Story. This is actually false, the story paints a bigger picture about the struggles of having to make a very difficult decision that impacts everybody's life. This story has a lot more to it than just a personal account of the war. It gives the reader a perspective on how something, at times very small can affect everyone and everything around you. His story is now out there to remember and reflect on at any point. Beah realizes that his childhood is forever lost. Ishmael reflects over his lost childhood when he says, “I tried to think about my childhood days, but it was impossible. ” Too much horrible and destructive things have happened to Beah’s childhood and innocence. Murdering people non-stop in extremely violent ways takes a big part of that away. But he has come to terms with it and is trying to move on now in New York City, he has also realized how important morals really are.
This book has enough motivational text to change things, which is exactly what Beah’s intentions were. Like the previous story, he speaks in the book about the monkey. The story is about making a decision that will hurt people either way but he chooses the option that relieves other people from having to make a hard decision. That story shapes the entire book; innocent people having to make difficult choices, and Beah makes the harder decision for himself but makes it easier for other people.
- Beah, I. (2007). A long way gone: Memoirs of a boy soldier. Sarah Crichton Books.
- Human Rights Watch. (1999). Sierra Leone: The war within the war. Retrieved from https://www.hrw.org/reports/1999/sierraleone/
- Keen, D. (2005). Conflict and collusion in Sierra Leone. Oxford University Press.
- Kleinman, A., & Kleinman, J. (1997). The appeal of experience; the dismay of images: Cultural appropriations of suffering in our times. Daedalus, 126(4), 1-23.
- National Geographic. (2018). Sierra Leone. Retrieved from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/destinations/africa/sierra-leone/
- Sierra Leone Telegraph. (2017). Sierra Leone civil war – 20 years on: Has anything changed? Retrieved from https://www.thesierraleonetelegraph.com/sierra-leone-civil-war-20-years-on-has-anything-changed/
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- United Nations. (2018). Children and armed conflict. Retrieved from https://childrenandarmedconflict.un.org/countries-caac/sierra-leone/
- World Health Organization. (2002). Sierra Leone: Post-conflict health sector priorities. Retrieved from https://apps.who.int/iris/handle/10665/42734