A Long Way Gone

When the rebels overtake Beah and his brother and friends, they submit them to two selection processes. Why? What were the rebels selecting for? What did they see in Beah and his brother, Junior.

What were the rebels selecting for? What did they see in Beah and his brother, Junior.

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In Chapter Five, Beah, his friends, and some other captured boys are lined up to be selected for initiation into the RUF. The rebels’ first round picks include Khalilou, Beah, and a few others, but some rebels protest that the choosing was done poorly and they start over. This second time Junior is chosen but Beah and his friends are not. Junior and the other chosen boys are then told by the rebels that they will be initiated into the RUF through the trial of killing the boys who were not chosen. Junior nearly bursts into tears at the thought of killing the boys, but nearby gunshots disrupt the proceedings and the boys manage to scatter into the forest. Amid the chaos of exchanged gunfire, Beah escapes the rebels and believes himself alone until Junior and the others catch up with him. Reunited, the six boys make their way back to the village in which they had spent their time scavenging for food to sleep and consider their next steps.


This chapter recounts Beah’s first direct encounter with the rebels. The RUF members are portrayed as sadistic, violent young men entertained by the pain of others. When the rebels accuse the old man of failing to support their cause, Beah wonders “What cause?” He notices that whomever painted the initials “RUF” on all the walls of the village probably did not even know his alphabet. “Rather, he only knew what R, U, and F looked like” (p. 33). Beah considers the rebels to be ignorant young men enamored of killing and torture, not freedom fighters in the service of a greater cause.

The depth of Beah’s love for his brother (and vice-versa) shows in the recruit selection scene. In both rounds, Beah and Junior are on the verge of being separated from one another. When he is told he will have to kill the weaker boys (and very likely watch his brother die), Junior cannot help but weep in anguish. But when the brothers find each other in the forest, Junior gives Beah “that smile he had held back when I was about to face death” (p. 36). Junior wants to reassure his younger brother, just as he has done in the past, but in the midst of an upheaval that has overturned their whole world, even the protective Junior is at a loss to care for his younger brother.