A Long Way Gone

A Long Way Gone Summary and Analysis of Chapter 14


Beah notices that his migraines lessen the more focused he is on “soldierly things.” Along with the other boys and men, he becomes addicted to marijuana, brown brown (a mixture of cocaine and gunpowder), and the white capsules distributed by the officers. The drugs not only seem to give him energy, they also deaden his senses to the killings he commits. The soldiers spend their leisure time watching war movies such as Rambo: First Blood and Commando; from these films they take ideas they want to use on the battlefield.

Whenever supplies (including drugs) run low, the soldiers raid a rebel camp or, sometimes, a civilian village to get both supplies and more recruits. Beah’s days become a haze of drug use and following orders with no clear plan given to the soldiers themselves. The violence quotient grows as the boys cheer their commanding officer for summarily executing a captured prisoner who refused to cooperate. Beah comes to see his weapon as his source of power and to rely on violence against rebels to give him a sense of purpose.

During a raid the army captures several prisoners; the younger soldiers, including Beah, are put in competition with one another to see who can kill his target by slitting his throat first. Beah connects the capture rebel to the deaths of his family members and wins the contest by killing his prisoner quickly. His achievement is celebrated by the other boys and adult soldiers as a milestone in his progress through military life.


This short chapter offers much in the way of understanding Beah’s life as a boy soldier. He concentrates a few years of violent military action into a few scenes, focusing here on the early rites of passage in his military career. The addiction to drugs, like so much else in the memoir, is offered as a matter-of-fact statement upon which the reader can render his/her own judgement; Beah only makes it clear that the addiction to the drugs is part of what helped the soldiers continue moving forward in their nightmare existence.

The incident of the killing contest works as a perverse coming of age moment for Beah. He takes a step from childhood into adulthood by murdering a defenseless man; he is only able to reconcile this with his conscience by first conjuring up the image of his murdered family and attributing their deaths to the rebel in front of him. The power of memory thus utilized is clear: by turning pain into hatred, Beah is able to kill the prisoner as smoothly as he might kill an animal, but the strength behind his blade is his anger and pain over the loss of his childhood.