A Long Way Gone

A Long Way Gone

Commenting on how a rebel soldier had interrogated an old man, Ishmael writes “before the war a young man wouldn't have dared talk to anyone older in such a rude manner. We grew up in a culture that demanded good behavior from everyone and especially from the young”. Where else in A Long Way Gone did you encounter the brutal,thuggish, or even sadistic behavior of young rebels or of other young people?

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Beah sums up his coping mechanism and motivation for becoming an effective killer in the Sierra Leone civil war. He channels his pain at the loss of his family into a raging hatred of the rebels who killed his loved ones, and lets the fire of this anger burn through his gunfire. Even as he uses this method to dehumanize his enemies, he realizes that killing an infinite number of rebels will not restore his soul to peace, nor will it reclaim his lost childhood. He follows orders, and follows them effectively, but his humanity is the price he must pay for being a good soldier. In chapter 13, 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.