a long way gone discussion questions
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“My eyes widened, a smile forming on my face. Even in the middle of the madness there remained that rue and natural beauty, and it took my mind away from my current situation as I marveled at this sight." (p. 59)
Even amid the horrors of civil war, Beah can see a grander perspective when confronted by natural beauty. He and his companions had never seen the ocean, so the sight, sound, and smell of it overwhelms them with joy. For the first time since any of them fled the rebels, they joke with one another, wrestle in fun, and play soccer on the beach. The boys have a moment of respite from their terrifying ordeal, and in that moment remind the reader (and each other) that they are still children at heart, forced to grow up too quickly because of circumstances beyond their control.
"When I was a child, my grandmother told me that the sky speaks to those who look and listen to it. She said, "In the sky there are always answers and explanations for everything: every pain, every suffering, joy, and confusion." That night I wanted the sky to talk to me." (p. 166)
Beah makes this statement in chapter 17, immediately after repeating his fascination with the appearance of the moon in chapter 1. The sky again represents the natural world--the world greater than that of civil strife and human violence. For the past several years leading up to this moment, Beah has been divorced from the redemptive power of nature. He has been trained to fight, to kill, and to survive. Now, having broken through his own barriers against trusting the nurse, Esther, and the UNICEF worker, Leslie, Beah recovers his sense of family history. He invokes the memory of his grandmother and her lesson about man's communion with the natural world. For the first time since he was inducted into the army, Beah remembers this connection and seeks to make it whole again.