A Long Way Gone

A Long Way Gone Summary and Analysis of Chapter 9


As Beah and his six companions travel through the forest, they hear an unfamiliar roaring sound. They immediately get off the road to hide, but the source of the noise does not change its proximity. Kanei finally decides to look toward the noise and discovers the source: the ocean. None of the boys had ever seen the sea before, so this scene of natural beauty gives them pause and a respite from their fears. They relax enough to dance and play soccer.

They continue down the beach to find a small village, but no inhabitants. All evidence points to a hurried and recent evacuation. Suddenly, a group of fishermen spring from their cover and seize the boys. The villagers have heard rumors that a young band of rebels are in the area, and accuse the boys of being hostile. After interrogating them, the fishermen take the boys’ shoes and send them away.

Walking across the burning sand, the boys realize that their shoes were taken as a means of punishment. Despite the pain, they keep walking until sunset end eventually come upon an unoccupied hut. The boys take refuge in the hut and begin to treat their injured feet. The owner of the hut arrives, nearly leaves when he sees the boys, but remains when he notices their suffering. He stops Musa from pulling the grains of sand out of his blistered feet; instead, he offers them a treatment of steamed grass to ease their pain. For the next several days, their nameless host comes from his village to the hut in order to nurse them back to health with regular treatments and food. When Beah asks the man his name, the man replies that they need not share their names: “This way we will all be safe” (p. 63).

After a week of recovery, the man takes the boys to the ocean to soak their feet in the salt water. He has them soak their feet every day to promote healing and kill infection. The boys learn their caretaker is a member of the Sherbo tribe, and that he has not seen the violence of the war firsthand. At the end of the second week, an older woman enters the hut and urges the boys to leave. Beah can tell from her manner of speaking that she knew about the boys’ presence in the hut all along. The boys flee, but are too late to escape the villagers who have learned of their presence.

Twelve men wrestle the boys to the ground and tie their hans, then bring them before their chief. The chief orders the boys stripped. Calling them "devils", the chief decides to drown the boys in the ocean. However, Beah's rap music cassettes are found. He explains he used to dance with his brother and friends before the war. The chief orders Beah to dance and he is convinced that the boys are not rebels, but lost children fleeing the violent conflict. When asked whether the boys had been assisted or had stayed in the fisherman’s hut of their own accord, Beah tells the chief that the boys stayed there on their own to spare their caretaker from punishment. The chief releases them but orders them to leave the village and continue on their way.


Beah notices that the natural beauty of the ocean can give succor to the weary, frightened boys: “My eyes widened, a smile forming on my face. Even in the middle of the madness there remained that true and natural beauty, and it took my mind away from my current situation as I marveled at this sight” (p. 59). The boys’ chasing one another and playing soccer serves as a reminder that these are in fact children who have been exposed to the horrors of civil war. This poignant moment of play provides stark contrast to the terrors of previous chapters.

The cruelty of the fisherman reveals how far the terrorism of the RUF has spread; the boys, who are staying together for safety and emotional security, are rumored to be rebels and treated as hostile by nearly everyone they meet. Even on the sea shore, further than any of the boys have traveled, the fear of civil unrest makes the boys outcasts before they even meet anyone face to face.

In contrast, the lone fisherman shows them hospitality and kindness. Beah notes that he was ready to leave his hut to avoid them until he saw their wounds. The fisherman is moved to compassion for the boys and helps them to recover. He asks nothing in return, only asking that they do not learn his name. The boys return his kindness in the only way available - by not identifying him as an accomplice to their recuperation.

The difference between the reactions of the single man and the village provide the reader with insight into the character of the people of Sierra Leone. Taken on a case by case basis, the people are generous, kind-hearted, and sympathetic; however, when operating in a group mindset, with the safety of their entire village at stake, they become defensive, fearful, and - because of these two attitudes - sometimes cruel.