A Long Way Gone

How does the author use nature in telling his story?

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Even amid the horrors of civil war, Beah can see a grander perspective when confronted by natural beauty. Beah strives to be like the moon, he is adept at living off of the forest when he is stranded, and he rejoices when he sees the ocean for the first time. In nature, Beah retains his innocence. In his memoir, nature also echoes or foreshadows coming evil. Left alone in Mattru Jong after most of the villagers fled to the forest, Beah notes that the moon does not appear in the sky that night and that the air felt "stiff, as if nature itself was afraid of what was happening." (p. 22) When Beah is traveling with Kanei, Musa,Alhaji, Saidu, Jumah and Moriba, a crow falls out of the sky and the boys, desperately hungry, eat it despite their ominous feelings. The next day, Saidu falls ill and dies shortly thereafter.

For Beah, there's a deeper spirit to nature, one that resists the manmade atrocity. As a soldier, when it rains, he notes that the forest is washed clean, "as if the soil had refused to absorb anymore blood for that day." (p. 150) When his rehabilitation starts to take hold, Beah considers the moon for the first time since the war. For the past several years leading up to this moment, Beah has been divorced from the redemptive power of nature. He has been trained to fight, to kill, and to survive. Now, having broken through his own barriers against trusting nurse Esther and the UNICEF worker Leslie, Beah recovers his sense of family history. He invokes the memory of his grandmother and her lesson about man's communion with the natural world. For the first time since he was inducted into the army, Beah remembers this connection and seeks to make himself whole again.