A Long Way Gone

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A Long Way Gone Chapter 16 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Beah says that the boys’ fury at the civilians was such that the boys would respond to pleas for the boys to have medical checkups and therapy by throwing cutlery and even benches at the nurses. They even chase and beat the nurses. The only thing they will do is eat the food they’re given. The boys are also so desperate for drugs that they steal pain relievers.
Whereas they once wanted nothing more than to escape war, the boys now regard it as the place where their family is, and war as the only activity they are interested in. Again the “civilians” don’t understand this. They think if they just take the boy from the war they will be boys again. Instead, it will be made clear that they have to somehow return the boys to their boyhood.
Themes
Children in War Theme Icon
Companionship, Hope, and the Self Theme Icon
The boys fight each other too, for hours, in between meals. At night, they drag their mattresses outside to sleep, and the next day someone always bring the mattresses back inside. When the mattresses aren’t brought inside one day, they beat up a staff member, who they think should have brought them inside. Once the man returns from the hospital, he tells the boys that what they did is not their fault. This only makes the boys angrier. Another outburst, where the boys go around breaking windows, lands Beah in the hospital with a laceration on his hand, where he is treated tenderly despite his violence.
The man’s insistence that the boys bear no responsibility for their actions shows how different these adults’ attitudes are towards the boys compared to the boys’ conceptions of themselves. The adults treat them like innocents who were forced into war against their will. The boys see themselves as hardened warriors. In fact, were the boys to see themselves as the adults did it would be unendurably painful, for only by being soldiers—only by seeing what they did as part of their responsibility—can they face those actions.
Themes
Children in War Theme Icon
The Horror of War Theme Icon
Companionship, Hope, and the Self Theme Icon
Guilt and Responsibility Theme Icon
Beah remembers a mission while he was still in the army I which Beah and Alhaji took out a village all by themselves. Beah covered Alhaji while Alhaji practiced his Rambo moves on the guards. Alhaji is called Little Rambo from then on, and Beah Green Snake, for the way he can take out a whole village without being noticed.
The boys treat war playfully, not taking their own danger seriously, and trying to actually replicate moves from movies. The nicknames are similar evidence of a kind of perverse playfulness, a perversion of boyhood and soldiering.
Themes
Children in War Theme Icon
The Horror of War Theme Icon
Companionship, Hope, and the Self Theme Icon
Having withdrawn from the drugs over the course of their first month at Benin Home, the boys start to have horrible flashbacks. Beah sees blood whenever he turns on the faucet. The boys also start selling the school supplies the staff give them and take the money into town, where they admire how tall the buildings are and the diversity of foods available.
The boys cannot deal with what they have seen without the drugs at first. Their trips to town, and their fascination, demonstrates what intact innocence they have left, the very same which the staff is trying to resurrect.
Themes
Children in War Theme Icon
The Horror of War Theme Icon
Companionship, Hope, and the Self Theme Icon
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The staff finds out about the trip and decides to make attending classes mandatory for inclusion in future trips. But the boys don’t pay attention, and continue to fight each other. The teacher tells them it is not their fault, and in response the boys throw pencils at him. Beah learns to fall asleep without drugs again after a few months, but wakes up almost immediately, having imagined a gunman was cutting his throat. Beah tries to remember his childhood, but his memories of war seem to be in the way.
The boys are at least attending class at this point, and Beah’s ability to fall asleep is something like a step forward, as is his desire to remember his childhood, though his repressed guilt and horror at what he has done continues to be evident as well. While he was a soldier, he had no desire to think of anything but killing.
Themes
Children in War Theme Icon
The Horror of War Theme Icon
Companionship, Hope, and the Self Theme Icon
Beah remembers that after rebels attacked and overran the base in which his squad had trained, Moriba was killed. In his memory, the surviving squad members wander for weeks trying to find a new base as the rainy season of the summer began. They are ambushed by rebels, and fight for days in the rain, pushing the attackers back and eventually capturing the rebels’ village. The rain washes the blood from the foliage, but the bodies continue to bleed onto the oversaturated soil. The rebels attack again, and are again repelled. The rebels whom the soldiers capture are forced to dig their own graves. The soldiers then bury them alive. Beah’s flashback ends with him outside the compound, and a staff member bringing him back inside, telling him it is not his fault.
Beah’s flashback is not just a vivid memory of war, but of the horrible things he has done. Nature does not care for the fighters, and will do nothing for them. The fight is overlong, but what sticks with Beah most strongly is the cruelty with which they treated the rebels they captured. There are no causes in the civil war besides, it seems, revenge, and violence for its own sake. Although previously Beah has been enraged by the staff’s comforting, now he does not respond with anger, as it is some comfort from the guilt he is feeling.
Themes
Children in War Theme Icon
The Horror of War Theme Icon
Companionship, Hope, and the Self Theme Icon
Guilt and Responsibility Theme Icon
Nature  Theme Icon