A Long Way Gone

A Long Way Gone

Describe how Beah was able to "escape" from being a soldier

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In the UNICEF compound, Beah finally begins to trust someone. He had learned through hard experience that circumstances would collaborate to cause him harm; even in the military, where he learned comradeship through blood spilled, Beah found that he could be betrayed: “People like the lieutenant, whom I had obeyed and trusted, had made me question trusting anyone, especially adults” (p. 153). When even a man who held others’ lives in his hands could turn traitor (by sending Beah with the UNICEF workers), there was no one left in Beah’s world to confide in. He has learned that “people befriended only to exploit one another” (p. 153).

Esther manages to overcome this barrier through a combination of reverse psychology and patience. She challenges Beah to earn her trust, rather than offering to earn his; she also waits for him to be ready to talk, rather than insisting he answer her questions. Her knowledge of his pre-war interests (gleaned from the questionnaires the boys answered in class) allow her build a bridge to Beah - one which eventually allows him to speak plainly to her.

When he confides in Esther his terrible experience in taking vengeance upon the rebels who shot him in the foot, he is ostensibly giving her background for where his scars originated. However, what he is really doing is tearing down the wall he has erected to protect himself from harm. This one crack in the wall allows him to eventually speak much more openly and begin to feel the emotions he has long tried to suppress.