A Long Way Gone

A Long Way Gone Summary and Analysis of Prologue: New York City, 1998


Beah, here 18, introduces his memoir with a brief exchange of dialogue with his high school friends, who don't fully grasp the weight of his experiences in Sierra Leone. His friends respond "cool" when he confirms that he had witnessed combat. Beah smiles a little but won't tell them anything more about his childhood.


This quick exchange sets the tone of Beah's memoir. As a teenager in New York City, Beah is gained a few years' distance from his traumatic experiences in Sierra Leone, yet he is still unable or unwilling to to into detail with his friends. This is a constant struggle for Beah; though he later speaks at the UN about the atrocities he witnessed, he is reluctant to share memories of his own violent deeds - to spare himself both pain and alienation.

Beah wrote his memoir when he was 27. As an adult, he is finally able to reconcile his actions and share his story. Instead of clamming up when faced with questions from people who couldn't possibly understand what he went through, Beah decides to try to make them understand through his own words. In the Prologue, he adopts a style that mimics his 18-year-old thoughts. The rest of the Chapters are written in a similar, age-appropriate tone.