A Long Way Gone

What universal truths does Ishmael teach us about surviving loss and overcoming isolation? What does he teach us about our own humanity?

Ishmael’s memoir is a testament to hope, perseverance, and spirit

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I think that the theme of hope is an important universal truth in the story. Hope comes in the starkest terms for Beah during his ordeal. When on the run from the RUF, Beah is able to comfort himself with memories of his earlier life. His father's saying, "If you are alive, there is hope for a better day and something good to happen. If there is nothing good left in the destiny of a person, he or she will die" is enough to push him towards another day. (p. 54) Being alive one more day is proof that all is not yet lost.

When he is a soldier, however, Beah forfeits a connection to his life. Hope dims in the haze of drugs and violence. Beah gives up any dream of a future beyond simply surviving. However, his father's adage rings true once rehabilitation begins. After speaking at the UN, Beah's hope is rekindled. He meets many children like him and sees that his experiences can have an impact on the world. For once, he realizes that someone will care if he lives or dies. Far away from the civil war, Beah's life has meaning again. In New York, also meets storyteller Laura Simms who offers him a lifeline out of Sierra Leone - which he eventually takes.