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Beah’s account of his first firefight demonstrates a young man’s need to vilify his enemies in order to kill them. At first, Beah is unable to open fire on another human being even though he is ordered to do so. Only when his friend and tent-mate are killed does he realize the lives at stake and he is then able to open fire on the rebels. However, Beah overcompensates for his loss by killing any and every non-military person he sees and shutting off his emotions about the lives he is snuffing out. Once this monster of violence has been unleashed, he cannot control it or return to his prior state of pacific innocence.
The nightmare Beah experiences that night underscores the turning point for the young man in his shift from childhood to forced maturity. He has seen his friends die at the hands of rebels - up to this point, every offence the rebels committed in his sight had been against strangers - and now can unleash his pain and hatred on a visible target. From that point on, he has no difficulty identifying the rebels as inhuman enemies to be killed on sight.