A Long Way Gone

CH 17 What purpose do the flashbacks to wartime serve in this chapter? (think back to our earlier discussion of how Beah moves around in time as he tells his story.)

CH 17

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In Chapter Seventeen, Beah attempts to remember his childhood. However, “it was impossible, as I began getting flashbacks of the first time I slit a man’s throat” (p. 160). Beah’s use of flashbacks throughout the preceding chapters has been building to this moment; his memories as a fugitive from the rebel onslaught are always of his childhood, of happier times and memories which keep him stable in an unstable world. Once he is inducted into the military - or as he puts it, once his childhood is destroyed - he no longer employs flashbacks to his youth. From this point on in the memoir, his flashbacks are all of bloody confrontations and violent fates met by both rebels and soldiers alike. The war has truly destroyed his childhood by denying him access even to the memories of his happier youth.