A Long Way Gone

A Long Way Gone

Outline the important experiences Beah had as a soldier.

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Once the boys begin their training they must exchange their old clothes for new shoes, army shorts, and t-shirts; in the process, Beah’s precious rap tapes are thrown in the fire with his old shorts and destroyed.

Their young commander,Corporal Gadafi, puts them through their paces practicing running, crawling silently, and recognizing hand signals so that they will not give away their positions in the forest by speaking. He rushes them through their breakfast in order to train them to eat within a minute, then teaches them how to fire, reload, and clean their AK-47s. Later Corporal Gadafi trains the boys to stab their enemies by practicing on a banana tree.

The boys are told to shoot anyone they see who is not wearing either a green head tie or a helmet like his own.

The company sets up an ambush in the forest and await the passing of rebels. Eventually they spot some people wandering through the forest; when it is clear that armed rebels are among the people, the Lieutenant Jabati gives the order and they open fire. Beah discovers that his trigger finger is numb and he cannot fire his weapon. Beah’s other tent-mate, Josiah, is knocked onto a tree trunk by an RPG shell, breaking his back. Beah also sees Musa, dead from a head wound. At this moment, Beah manages to fire his G3 weapon and kill a man. He envisions the massacres he has seen the rebels perpetrate in the past, fueling his anger and bloodlust. He continues killing everyone he sees, stopping only to take ammunition, weapons, and supplies from their corpses.

Beah has a nightmare that as he is picking Josiah up from the tree trunk, a gunman accosts him and points his rifle at Beah’s head. Beah awakens from his nightmare firing his gun inside the tent, emptying the magazine. He notes that from that point on, he had no problem shooting his gun.

Whenever supplies (including drugs) run low, the soldiers raid a rebel camp or, sometimes, a civilian village to get both supplies and more recruits. Beah’s days become a haze of drug use and following orders with no clear plan given to the soldiers themselves.

During a raid the army captures several prisoners; the younger soldiers, including Beah, are put in competition with one another to see who can kill his target by slitting his throat first. Beah connects the capture rebel to the deaths of his family members and wins the contest by killing his prisoner quickly. His achievement is celebrated by the other boys and adult soldiers as a milestone in his progress through military life.