A Long Way Gone

A Long Way Gone Summary and Analysis of Chapter 12


The boys walk for several days, then are accosted by armed soldiers. The soldiers bring the boys back to Yele, a village occupied by government soldiers. Both soldiers and civilians live in the village and appear to be having a safe, almost happy life. Only the sight orphans - children whose parents were slain by rebels - dims the mood of the village. The boys begin assisting in daily work routines and believe they have finally found a safe haven. Beah’s nightmares and migraines increase in intensity to the point of debilitating him from time to time, but he makes no mention of it to the village doctor.

One day, Beah notices the atmosphere of the village becomes tense. Lieutenant Jabati calls his soldiers to order and exhorts them for several hours. Later, Beah is caught looking at Lieutenant Jabati, who calls him to him. Jabati briefly discusses the book he is reading, Julius Caesar, then goes off into a reverie of his own. Beah leaves, mystified.

That night, the soldiers leave to confront the rebels. The next morning, significantly fewer soldiers return to the village. After several days of these skirmishes, the lieutenant gathers everyone in the village to the central square. There he informs them that the rebels are near and the military needs the help of able-bodied men or boys. He says those unwilling to join the military are free to leave, but they will have no more food or supplies from the village. The boys discuss their options and realize they only have one choice: join the Sierra Leonean army. To leave the village is to die.

The next day the lieutenant shows the villagers the mutilated bodies of a boy and a man. He informs the villagers that the two attempted to leave the village freely, but the rebels captured, tortured, and killed them. The lieutenant insists that this behavior shows the evil of the rebels and the need for good people to stand up against them.

Girls and women are sent to help in the kitchen, while boys and men are sent to the ammunition depot. Beah receives his weapon, an AK-47, and trembles with fear the entire time he holds it. The soldier distributing weapons encourages the new recruits that they will soon learn how to use this weapon to kill rebels. That night, Beah notices first that his former traveling companions have no desire to speak with one another (they are in different tents) and second that he is awake without a migraine for the first time in weeks.

The next morning the boys are summoned from their tents early to report for training. Beah helps his tent-mates to get out of bed and get into file. They 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. Beah learns that his tent-mates, Sheku and Josiah, emulate him rather than their commanding officer since they see him as an older brother figure. 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 stab weakly at first, but improve dramatically when Gadafi tells them to remember that the rebel they may be attacking has done much worse to their parents. That night before bed, Beah reflects that he has learned the underlying lesson - that rebels were evil and deserved to die - quickly and well.


In this chapter Beah describes the gradual indoctrination of young boys into the ways of warfare. The haven they have been led to becomes the training ground for their martial skills. Both Lieutenant Jabati and Corporal Gadafi use emotional arguments - the desire for revenge and fear of a cruel, inhuman enemy - to motivate the villagers to remain and support the military. His display of the corpses is an interesting parallel to the scene from Julius Caesar in which Mark Antony shows the commoners Caesar’s assassinated body; Beah foreshadowed this connection when he describes Lieutenant Jabati’s love of Julius Caesar prior to this moment.

Beah also uses foreshadowing to alert the reader that Yele, for all its seeming placidity and security, is a danger to the boys in ways they cannot foresee. He says “there were no indications that our childhood was threatened, much less that we would be robbed of it” (p. 101). This statement hints at the later induction into the military through emotional manipulation.

Beah also includes further flashbacks in this chapter to heighten the poignancy of the events which occur there. When he sees the soldiers and civilians playing soccer, he is reminded of his own time in a soccer league; he and his brother Junior were on the same team, and his parents were together in cheering them on. This memory brings with it a strong feeling of joy in Beah, who wants “to hold the moment longer, not only to celebrate our victory, but because the smile on my parents’ faces that evening made me so happy that I felt every nerve in my body had awoken and swayed to the gentlest wind that sailed within me” (p. 102). This memory, juxtaposed with the words of Lieutenant Jabati and Corporal Gadafi later, gives Beah the anger he needs to turn his pain into hatred of the rebels and become a more effective soldier.

The scene in which Beah loses his rap tapes in the fire becomes symbolic when considered in light of what he is about to do. The rap tapes are representative of his childhood and happier days; they are destroyed in fire as Beah joins the military and begins his training to become a killer. As he has noted before, his childhood is destroyed.