A Long Way Gone

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Ishmael Beah Character Analysis

The author and subject of the memoir. Beah is a writer based in New York City who at the age of twelve was orphaned by the civil war in Sierra Leone. At first just a boy on the run from the civil war, he is eventually captured by government soldiers. Although he was only a child, Beah was coerced into fighting for the government, and even came to think of himself as a willing participant. After two years of fighting and killing, he is taken from the front and, eventually, rehabilitated. Beah has since become an advocate for the rehabilitation of child soldiers.

Ishmael Beah Quotes in A Long Way Gone

The A Long Way Gone quotes below are all either spoken by Ishmael Beah or refer to Ishmael Beah. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Children in War Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Farrar, Strauss and Giroux edition of A Long Way Gone published in 2007.
Chapter 1 Quotes

My high school friends have begun to suspect I haven't told them the full story of my life.
"Why did you leave Sierra Leone?"
"Because there is a war."
"You mean, you saw people running around with guns and shooting each other?"
"Yes, all the time."
"Cool."
I smile a little.
"You should tell us about it sometime."
"Yes, sometime."

Related Characters: Ishmael Beah (speaker)
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

In the introductory pages of Chapter 1, Ishmael is an American high school student, being asked about his experienced during the wars in Sierra Leone. Ishmael's classmates, who are almost all American-born, don't really understand what Ishmael has gone through--as far as they're concerned, Ishmael's experiences in Sierra Leone are exciting and entertaining, not scarring.

The passage could be considered a "framing device" for the story, because it reminds us that Ishmael is writing about his time in Sierra Leone for his own benefit, but also to educate and enlighten his readers, most of whom live in the Western world. Ishmael wants to do away with the narrow-minded view that war is a joke or a fiction--and so he'll write about his devastating experiences in the civil war, holding nothing back. There's also something especially horrifying about the fact that Beah is only in high school, and yet he's already a scarred war veteran.

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There were all kinds of stories told about the war that made it sound as if it was happening in a faraway and different land.

Related Characters: Ishmael Beah (speaker)
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

Ishmael's classmates in the previous quote don't really understand what he's gone through in Sierra Leone. And yet at one time, Ishmael was just as removed from the war as his American classmates are in the present. As a child, Ishmael's life was relatively easy: he was far away from the war in his part Sierra Leone, and his only sources of information about the war were refugees who came to town, fleeing from the crisis. In due time, Ishmael will become a refugee, too: fleeing Sierra Leone for the safety of the United States. In short, the story we're about to hear is about how the young, innocent Ishmael we see here (for whom the war is a fiction) becomes the hardened, more experienced Ishmael who curtly mentions his time in the war to his American high school classmates.

Whenever I get the chance to observe the moon now, I still see those same images I saw when I was six, and it pleases me to know that part of my childhood is still imbedded in me.

Related Characters: Ishmael Beah (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Moon
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:

Before the war, Beah learns to look up at the moon when he's feeling sad. The moon, at least for Ishmael, is a sign of happiness and peace: there's something comforting about the fact that no matter how bad things are on Earth, the moon will always be exactly the same. Years later (as he describes here), Ishmael will look at the moon with even greater fondness--after his horrible experiences in the civil wars of Sierra Leone, the moon will remind him to put his problems in perspective. Even more importantly, though, the moon reminds Ishmael that the trauma of war hasn't totally destroyed his innocence: there's still a part of him that can enjoy the simple sight of the moon rising in the night. His childhood was twisted and crushed by war, but a small part of it still remains "imbedded" in him.

Chapter 2 Quotes

I was afraid to fall asleep, but staying awake also brought back painful memories.

Related Characters: Ishmael Beah (speaker)
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:

As we learn more about Ishmael's experiences during the war, we become more sympathetic for his behavior--behavior which his classmates in New York, with their limited experience and understanding, might just find "weird." Beah has been traumatized by his experiences during the war: he's been forced to do barbaric things. As a result, Beah is constantly frightened, even when he's alone in his room. He doesn't want to sleep, because in his dreams he relives his more horrible experiences from Sierra Leone. There is, in short, no way out for Beah--expect, perhaps, to write about his suffering, gaining a distance from his own past.

Chapter 5 Quotes

We were so hungry that it hurt to drink water and we felt cramps in our guts. It was as though something were eating the insides of our stomachs. Our lips became parched and our joints weakened and ached.

Related Characters: Ishmael Beah (speaker), Junior , Talloi , Khalilou , Gibrilla , Kaloko
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

As the war sweeps across the country, Beah and his companions are forced to do anything to survive. The stakes are incredibly high: they need to find food of some kind, or else they'll starve to death. Ishmael comes close to starving on several occasions. In this passage, for instance, he's so hungry that he can barely drink water--the feeling of water passing through his body makes his empty stomach hurt. The book is full of gruesome descriptions like the one in the passage--descriptions of human suffering that go far beyond anything a child should have to endure. Beah's purpose, in describing his pain so vividly, seems to be purgative: by writing about his past, he gains some control over his traumatic experiences.

We decided to leave the village the next day and go somewhere safe, somewhere far away from where we were. We had no idea where we would go or even how to get to a safe place, but we were determined to find one.

Related Characters: Ishmael Beah (speaker), Junior , Talloi , Khalilou , Gibrilla , Kaloko
Page Number: 36
Explanation and Analysis:

The boys have endured a great deal of danger and fear so far. Their families have been hurt, and their village has been largely destroyed, due to the war in Sierra Leone. In this passage, Beah and his peers have managed to escape from a group of dangerous rebels. While they've been hanging around the area where they were born and live, they decide that there's no point in staying there any longer.

The passage reinforces the fact that Beah's hometown is no longer a safe place. For a long time, Beah thought of the war as a faraway event, irrelevant to his own life. But now that the war has come to his own village, Beah has no choice but to keep moving--everything he had previously taken for granted has been lost.

Chapter 6 Quotes

Being in a group of six boys was not to our advantage… People were terrified of boys our age. Some had heard rumors about young boys being forced by rebels to kill their families and burn their villages.

Related Characters: Ishmael Beah (speaker), Junior , Talloi , Khalilou , Gibrilla , Kaloko
Page Number: 37
Explanation and Analysis:

Beah and his companions are trying to find safety. They're not affiliated with any rebels--they just want to be somewhere out of danger. And yet because they're a fairly large group, villagers distrust them. The villagers have heard that the rebels train boys to shoot their own families, as well as strangers.

The passage foreshadows some of the actions that the soldiers of the civil war will force Beah and his peers to perform. For now, though, Beah regards it as bizarre that the villagers would think him capable of killing anybody--he's still just a kid, far removed from doing harm of any kind to other people. It's also worth noting that despite the risks, the boys still stay together--companionship and a sense of human connection is sometimes more important than erring on the side of safety.

This was one of the consequences of civil war. People stopped trusting each other, and every stranger became an enemy. Even people who knew you became extremely careful about how they related or spoke to you.

Related Characters: Ishmael Beah (speaker), Junior , Talloi , Khalilou , Gibrilla , Kaloko
Page Number: 37
Explanation and Analysis:

Beah's book is about his own personal experiences in the war in Sierra Leone. And yet at times, Beah writes about the country as a whole, and how civil war tore it apart. One longterm consequence of the war was that people stopped trusting each other: once they saw how evil other human beings could act, they stopped being so faithful to their neighbors and friends. The people of Sierra Leone were desperate--they wanted to survive, and sometimes survival meant hurting or killing other people. After the war, it's suggested, the population of the country was deeply disillusioned with itself and with humanity in general: as a result, people became less generous, less friendly, and less trusting.

Chapter 8 Quotes

I felt as if somebody was after me. Often my shadow would scare me and cause me to run for miles. Everything felt awkwardly brutal. Even the air seemed to want to attack me and break my neck.

Related Characters: Ishmael Beah (speaker)
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:

As the situation in Sierra Leone deteriorates, Beah's situation becomes worse as well. Here, he's walking on his own, lonely and frightened. Beah moves through the forest, afraid to stop--it's as if he's being chased, though by whom Beah doesn't know. Beah is so frightened by what he's witnessed already that he's become perpetually paranoid. Even when there's no apparent danger around him, he assumes that he is in danger.

The passage reverses the spirit of the early chapters in that it shows nature as a place of danger, rather than a place of peace and rest. It's as if Sierra Leone itself has become an evil place, reflecting the vast political and social changes occurring within its borders.

When I was very little, my father used to say, “If you are alive, there is hope for a better day and something good to happen. If there is nothing good left in the destiny of a person, he or she will die.”

Related Characters: Ishmael Beah (speaker), Beah’s Father
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Beah--all alone in the wilderness--finds the courage and optimism to keep moving. He remembers when his father told him to look ahead to a "better day." Beah's father's point seems to be that life itself is a gift, and therefore worth being happy about. Beah is hungry and lonely, but he's alive, and therefore he should strive to protect himself and seek help.

The passage suggests one of the reasons that we're reading Beah's story in the first place. There's a kind of "reporting bias" involved in the book itself: Beah is an unusually strong and optimistic person; therefore, he finds the courage to survive, and eventually manages to come to America. There are many other children in Sierra Leone who weren't as lucky as Beah. While Beah is certainly lucky, it's suggested that he also managed to survive in part because of his own innate optimism and inner strength.

Chapter 10 Quotes

One of the unsettling things about my journey, mentally, physically, and emotionally, was that I wasn’t sure when or where it was going to end.

Related Characters: Ishmael Beah (speaker)
Page Number: 69
Explanation and Analysis:

As Beah spends more time as a homeless, parentless child, he also becomes more hopeless. He  wants to believe that his suffering will come to an end soon, but he sees no evidence that it will. The passage shows Beah in the depths of his despair: he's forced to wander around the country, trying to escape the war. Beah is still a child, and he can barely understand his present, much less the future of his country. It's impressive, though, that Beah continues trying to survive, despite his crises. Beah is a rational person, and so he gets frightened. And yet Beah is also an optimistic person--and so he finds the strength to carry on.

Every time people come at us with the intention of killing us, I close my eyes and wait for death. Even though I am still alive, I feel like each time I accept death, part of me dies. Very soon I will complete die and all that will be left is my empty body walking with you.

Related Characters: Saidu (speaker), Ishmael Beah, Jumah , Moriba , Alhaji , Kanei
Page Number: 70
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Saidu, one of the boys who wanders with Beah, says that he feels that he's getting steadily weaker with each impending threat he faces. Saidu explains that each time he has a brush with death a part of him dies. One might think that surviving death would strengthen Saidu, but for him precisely the opposite is true: the constant threat of danger just fills Saidu with despair. Accepting death totally means letting go of life's value, even if one keeps living.

The passage mirrors the despair that the other boys, including Beah, feel as the war in Sierra Leone continues. And yet it's important to note that it's Saudi, not Beah, who voices his despair in this chapter. Perhaps Beah is a more optimistic and hopeful child than others of his peers. 

Even though our journey was difficult, every once in a while we were able to do something that was normal and made us happy for a brief moment.

Related Characters: Ishmael Beah (speaker), Saidu , Jumah , Moriba , Alhaji , Kanei , Musa
Page Number: 70
Explanation and Analysis:

Beah notes that although his life as a wanderer is hard, there are occasional moments that help him survive--for instance, he and his peers come to a village where the villagers give them a feast. Beah's point is that happy moments, like the feast in the village, sustain him and his peers, so that when they encounter a tragic or frightening time, they still have enough energy and spirit to carry on instead of giving up.

The passage reinforces the point that optimism and happiness are key parts of survival. It's so easy to give up in the middle of a crisis like the one Beah faces, and so moments of happiness (and in his case, childlike innocence) act as vital motivators, saving Beah from total, destructive despair.

I longed for the gentle, dark, and shiny old hands of my grandmother; my mother’s tight enclosed embrace, during the times I visited her, as if hiding and protecting me from something; my father’s laughter when we played soccer together and when he sometimes chased me in the evening with a bowl of cold water to get me to take a shower; my older brother’s arms around me when we walked to school and when he sometimes elbowed me to stop me from saying things I would regret; and my little brother, who looked exactly like me and would sometimes tell people that his name was Ishmael when he did something wrong.

Related Characters: Ishmael Beah (speaker), Junior , Beah’s Mother , Beah’s Father , Beah’s Younger Brother , Beah’s Grandmother
Page Number: 71-72
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Beah and his peers arrive at a village that treats the boys with kindness and hospitality. Beah is offered a delicious feast, and afterwards, overcome by the good experience, he remembers his relationship with his grandmother, his mother, his brothers, and his father. Happiness, it's suggested, triggers more happiness: when Beah has a happy experience at the village feast, he's reminded of the other happy moments in his life.

The passage conveys both joy and despair. Beah's memories of his family members fill him with happiness, and yet they also remind him of his present misery: he is separated not only from his family but from his entire community, and seemingly from the promise of more lasting happiness in the future.

Under those stars and sky I used to hear stories, but now it seemed as if it was the sky that was telling us a story as its stars fell, violently colliding with each other. The moon hid behind clouds to avoid seeing what was happening.

Related Characters: Ishmael Beah (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Moon
Page Number: 80
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Beah describes the moon again, but in a very different context than before. While before the moon was open and inviting, a symbol of the peacefulness of nature, the moon is now hidden away. It's as if the moon can't bear to see what's happening to Sierra Leone--the spectacle of war is too terrible to watch.

There aren't many lyrical passages of this kind in the novel--yet here, Beah uses personification and metaphor to convey the full extent of the crisis in his country. Nature itself has turned its back on Sierra Leone, to the point where the moon--an old symbol of peace and romance--has abandoned Beah when he needs it more than ever.

Sometimes night has a way of speaking to us, but we almost never listen.

Related Characters: Ishmael Beah (speaker)
Page Number: 81
Explanation and Analysis:

Throughout the novel, Ishmael writes descriptions of the natural world, especially the night sky. At times, the night seems to offer a relief from the carnage and horror of Ishmael's life--it's comforting precisely because it's immune to the human changes in Ishmael's environment. Elsewhere, though, the night sky seems to respond to everything that's happened to Ishmael--it seems to give him advice and consolation, even warning him of future dangers. In short, as Ishmael says here, the night speaks to him.

Ishmael's ability to find solace in nature, one could argue, is a powerful survival mechanism. Ishmael is often incredibly lonely: without a family, and often without real friends, he's forced to turn to other places for comfort. (And yet even nature, as in the previous passage, often ignores him or seems to turn away.) Here, Ishmael suggests that his only friend is nature itself: he treats the night like a person, with whom he can at least have certain, limited interactions. Like a parent, the night offers Ishmael comfort and peace when no human being will give it to him.

Chapter 12 Quotes

They have lost everything that makes them human. They do not deserve to live. That is why we must kill every single one of them. Think of it as destroying a great evil. It is the highest service you can perform for your country.

Related Characters: Lieutenant Jabati (speaker), Ishmael Beah, Jumah , Moriba , Alhaji , Kanei , Musa
Page Number: 108
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we're introduced to Lieutenant Jabati, the military man who forces Beah and his peers to fight on his side in the war in Sierra Leone. Jabati makes a long, rambling speech in which he urges the boys to support his side--and, moreover, to kill anyone who tries to run away from the danger. Jabati characterizes his position as patriotic: it's an honor to fight for one's country (Jabati claims that he and his forces are the "true" representatives of Sierra Leone), and therefore to run away from the war or oppose Jabati is to be against Sierra Leone itself.

Jabati's words are clearly false and manipulative: he's just trying to get as many loyal soldiers as possible. But because Jabati is speaking to a group of children, and because he's threatening them with death should they try to escape, he gains some followers.

It's also worth noting the clear role that dehumanization plays in Jabati's brainwashing of his soldiers. He directly says that their enemies are "no longer human," and that thus they "do not deserve to live." Jabati knows that children would have a hard time killing other people if they truly accepted them as people--but if the whole thing is unreal, and their enemies are like animals or demons, then killing becomes more justified, more like a horrifying game.

Vizualize the enemy, the rebels who killed your parents, your family, and those who are responsible for everything that has happened to you.

Related Characters: Lieutenant Jabati (speaker), Ishmael Beah, Jumah , Moriba , Alhaji , Musa
Page Number: 112
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Jabati again speaks to his captive children and tries to compel them to fight for him. Jabati wants the boys to be soldiers in his army: they're young, but they know how to fire guns, and therefore they can be useful to Jabati. Jabati tries to get the boys to fight on his side by manipulating them against the rebels. He suggests that it was the other side, not Jabati's own, that murdered the boys' families. Jabati could be telling the truth, or not: the point is that he wants the boys to take up arms against his opponents, without asking too many questions. Whether or not Jabati's forces killed the boys' parents, he's responsible for their misfortune: it's partly because of his military attacks that the country has fallen into civil war.

Once again note how direct Jabati is in his manipulation--he wants the boys to take part in their own brainwashing by "visualizing" their enemies as being the murderers of their families. It's as if it's inevitable that the boys will have to kill people--they just have the choice of whether or not to dehumanize and hate their enemies, or else risk going insane, crushed by guilt and responsibility.

Chapter 13 Quotes

The branches of the trees looked as if they were holding hands and bowing their heads in prayer.

Related Characters: Ishmael Beah (speaker)
Page Number: 119
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Beah fights alongside Lieutenant Jabati's soldiers, killing a group of so-called rebels. Beah is terrified by his own actions: he's a child, and he's never murdered anyone, or even used a gun. Beah conveys the tragedy of the moment by comparing the shape of the tree branches to a pair of hands clasped in prayer. The message is clear: Beah has not only killed other human beings; he's lost his own childhood innocence to the madness of war. Beah isn't necessarily guilty of murder--he was manipulated and coerced into fighting, after all--but he'll have to live with his actions for the rest of his life, since he was the one who pulled the trigger. Previously, nature turned against Beah or gave him comfort in times of need, but here, it does neither one: it is a force detached from humanity's atrocities, praying for Beah's soul.

Chapter 16 Quotes

We fought all day in the rain. The forest was wet and the rain washed the blood off the leaves as if cleansing the surface of the forest, but the dead bodies remained under the bushes and the blood that poured out of the bodies stayed on top of the soaked soil, as if the soil had refused to absorb any more blood for that day.

Related Characters: Ishmael Beah (speaker), Lieutenant Jabati , Alhaji
Page Number: 150
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Beah's memories of his time in Sierra Leone become vague and sketchy, reflecting the traumatic nature of his experiences. He recalls fighting alongside the army for many hours, even though it was raining outside. Beah was forced to fire a gun and kill supposed "rebels." At the end of the day, Beah stopped to survey the damage caused by the fighting: he saw that the ground was so soaked with blood that it bubbled up through the soil.

It's as if the natural world can't handle the violence and devastation that the soldiers of Sierra Leone have caused. In the first half of the book, nature was either antagonistic or supportive to Beah, but in the second half of the book, nature is more often than not portrayed as rejecting the sinful human race altogether. This tragic, lyrical passage thus encapsulates the way that nature remains detached from human violence and cruelty.

Chapter 17 Quotes

At that time I didn’t think I was lucky, I thought I was brave and knew how to fight. Little did I know that surviving the war that I was in, or any other kind of war, was not a matter of feeling trained or brave.

Related Characters: Ishmael Beah (speaker)
Page Number: 159
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Beah--having been shot in the foot multiple times--is rushed to the hospital, where a doctor manages to take care of him, albeit very painfully. Beah survives his shooting, and foolishly thinks that he's been brave. Rather than accept the truth--he was lucky to have been shot in the foot, not the head--Beah deludes himself into believing that he was somehow responsible for his own survival; i.e., that his own toughness saved him from death.

The passage shows Beah lying to himself, showing that his time among the soldiers has distorted his perception of the world. Moreover, the passage shows Beah using self-deception as a kind of survival mechanism: instead of acknowledging his own powerlessness, Beah would prefer (quite understandably) to believe that he has some kind of control over his own life. Beah has been rescued from a life of fighting, and his rehabilitation is about to begin, yet for now he's still very much a product of his military conditioning.

None of what happened was your fault. You were just a little boy, and anytime you want to tell me anything, I am here to listen.

Related Characters: Esther (speaker), Ishmael Beah
Page Number: 160
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Esther, a nurse at the rehabilitation facility where Beah has been taken, tries to comfort Beah by telling him that his murders and other acts of violence weren't "his fault." Beah doesn't like to be told that his actions weren't his own fault--the statement just confuses him further. Beah knows perfectly well that he's responsible for the deaths of other human beings, and he hates himself for it. But he's not willing to lie to himself any further: he's not willing to accept, as Esther suggests, that his actions weren't his own. Beah was manipulated into enjoying fighting and killing--and that's why he feels so guilty, long after his days as a soldier are over. Beah will have to contend with his own sense of guilt for the rest of his life--and simplistic statements like Esther's "it's not your fault" don't make him feel any better.

Chapter 20 Quotes

At the end of these long discussions our faces and eyes glittered with hope and the promise of happiness. It seemed we were transforming our suffering as we talked about ways to solve their causes and let them be known to the world.

Related Characters: Ishmael Beah (speaker), Laura Simms , Bah , Dr. Tamba
Page Number: 198
Explanation and Analysis:

In the final chapters of the book, Beah--rescued from his life as a child soldier in the army in Sierra Leone--is taken to be with a United Nations worker named Laura Simms. Laura is leading a workshop program designed to offer aid and comfort to the children who've been forced to fight as soldiers in Sierra Leone. Simms focuses her workshop on communication and expression; she believes that the best way to get past guilt and self-hatred is to express one's feelings clearly and openly (a thesis that lies at the center of Beah's book itself). Beah seems to respond to Laura's methods: he recognizes that he needs to talk to other people about what he went through, rather than trying to deal with his pain on his own.

I joined the army to avenge the deaths of my family and to survive, but I’ve come to learn that if I am going to take revenge, in that process I will kill another person whose family will want revenge, then revenge and revenge and revenge will never come to an end.

Related Characters: Ishmael Beah (speaker), Laura Simms , Bah , Dr. Tamba
Page Number: 199
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Beah is sent to speak before the United Nations Council about his time as a soldier in the civil war. Beah's teachers give him a prepared speech, which they encourage him to read. And yet Beah prefers to speak for himself, showing that he's learned something from Laura Simms: speaking for oneself is the only way to feel better and accept oneself. In his speech, Beah talks about how the commanders in the army tried to manipulate the child soldiers to kill other people by telling them that they'd be getting revenge for their own families' deaths. In doing so, the military set off an endless cycle of revenge: each death invited another death in vengeance.

Beah's point, taken literally, is that Sierra Leone must break out of the cycle of violence and vengeance and instead use peace and understanding to solve its problems. His point can also be taken more generally, however: all countries (i.e., those represented at the United Nations) should use communication and openness instead of nuclear weapons and guns, and all individual people should learn to forgive and work together instead of rushing into an "eye-for-an-eye" mentality.

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Ishmael Beah Character Timeline in A Long Way Gone

The timeline below shows where the character Ishmael Beah appears in A Long Way Gone. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Children in War Theme Icon
The Horror of War Theme Icon
Companionship, Hope, and the Self Theme Icon
The memoir opens with a short prologue. Ishmael Beah is in high school in New York City in 1998. When his classmates become curious... (full context)
Children in War Theme Icon
The Horror of War Theme Icon
Companionship, Hope, and the Self Theme Icon
Beah then begins his story. It is 1993, he is twelve, and is leaving his hometown,... (full context)
Children in War Theme Icon
The Horror of War Theme Icon
Companionship, Hope, and the Self Theme Icon
The next day Beah, Junior and Talloi, who are staying at their friend’s, are surprised when their friends return... (full context)
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
Beah and his friends head to the wharf, where refugees are arriving from Mogbwemo by boat,... (full context)
Children in War Theme Icon
The Horror of War Theme Icon
Companionship, Hope, and the Self Theme Icon
Beah then remembers with great pain the last time he saw his father. Beah was about... (full context)
Children in War Theme Icon
The Horror of War Theme Icon
Companionship, Hope, and the Self Theme Icon
Guilt and Responsibility Theme Icon
...faces of the refugees and their warnings. The boys make it as far as Kabati, Beah’s grandmother’s village, which has been deserted, but what they see there makes them reconsider. A... (full context)
Children in War Theme Icon
The Horror of War Theme Icon
Companionship, Hope, and the Self Theme Icon
Nature  Theme Icon
To distance himself from what he has seen, Beah remembers his grandmother’s directive to “be like the moon,” as the moon always makes people... (full context)
Chapter 2
Children in War Theme Icon
The Horror of War Theme Icon
Guilt and Responsibility Theme Icon
Beah opens the second chapter as he wheelbarrows a body wrapped in a sheet through the... (full context)
Children in War Theme Icon
The Horror of War Theme Icon
Guilt and Responsibility Theme Icon
Beah gets up from the floor. He has been living in New York City for a... (full context)
Chapter 3
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
...As more messengers arrive, more people go into hiding. The empty town is scary to Beah, who notices that bird and crickets won’t sing and that the moon isn’t in the... (full context)
Children in War Theme Icon
The Horror of War Theme Icon
Companionship, Hope, and the Self Theme Icon
Nature  Theme Icon
...The boys run for more than an hour, and on the backs of their adrenaline Beah notes that he didn’t get tired or even sweat. Junior calls out for Beah, trying... (full context)
Chapter 4
Children in War Theme Icon
The Horror of War Theme Icon
Companionship, Hope, and the Self Theme Icon
Nature  Theme Icon
For several days the boys continue to walk, eventually finding more survivors. Beah wants to know what his brother is thinking, but doesn’t ask. He wonders where his... (full context)
Children in War Theme Icon
The Horror of War Theme Icon
The town appears to be abandoned, although there is a great deal of carnage. Beah vomits when he sees two male corpses with their limbs and genitals chopped off. The... (full context)
Chapter 5
Children in War Theme Icon
The Horror of War Theme Icon
Guilt and Responsibility Theme Icon
...of the boy they chased gives them each an ear of corn that night, but Beah says he felt guilty only briefly. (full context)
Children in War Theme Icon
The Horror of War Theme Icon
...rebels are older than 21. The boys are so scared that the rebels laugh, and Beah tries not to faint. All he can think about is death. Two of the rebels... (full context)
Children in War Theme Icon
The Horror of War Theme Icon
Companionship, Hope, and the Self Theme Icon
Guilt and Responsibility Theme Icon
...A rebel announces that everyone else will be killed to make the new recruits strong. Beah looks to Junior; both of them are crying. A rebel laughs and tells the recruits... (full context)
Children in War Theme Icon
The Horror of War Theme Icon
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...heads. Then gunshots are heard from the bush, and rebels begin firing back. Everyone runs. Beah escapes, but continues to hear the cries of those who do not escape for hours... (full context)
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Beah waits in the forest for an hour, and then can hear the whispering of the... (full context)
Chapter 6
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Beah explains that being in a large group of boys was not to their advantage. In... (full context)
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...no, knowing that the rebels will soon reach this village, too. They walk on, and Beah notices that the sky looks dull and that the trees sway hesitantly. In the next... (full context)
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Beah remembers when Junior tried to teach him how to skip a stone on a river.... (full context)
Chapter 7
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...last prayer of the day. When they find each other later, having escaped, Kaloko tells Beah how at the mosque, everyone realized the rebels had come into town, and so they... (full context)
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When the rebels enter the town, Beah runs from the house he is staying at for the bush, not having time to... (full context)
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...else had returned. But the village is silent, birds and crickets do not sing, and Beah is afraid of the wind. Eventually dogs come for the body of the imam. (full context)
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Beah decides to leave, finally, as he is tired of the constant danger. Kaloko decides to... (full context)
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Beah survives on cassava, until one day he is too tired and hungry, and decides to... (full context)
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After six days of walking, Beah comes in contact with a family. He tries to be friendly, but it is plain... (full context)
Chapter 8
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Beah walk for two days without sleeping, feeling not only that’s he’s being followed, but that... (full context)
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Beah, however, goes in circles. When he stops, he is haunted again by the images in... (full context)
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Beah finds some fruit he’s never seen before that birds are eating, and figures even if... (full context)
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Beah’s loneliness only gives him more time with his memories. Beah is even afraid to sleep... (full context)
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Beah gets down and continues walking in the night. He steps on a snake and then... (full context)
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Beah encounters six boys at a junction, three of whom are from Mattru Jong: Alhaji, Musa,... (full context)
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Beah knows it is unsafe to be with such a large group, but is lonely enough... (full context)
Chapter 9
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As the boys’ feet heal, Beah notices that when they talk about their past, it is only about school and soccer,... (full context)
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...out they were there, and that the boys must run. But the boys are caught. Beah tries to show the men that he means no harm by giving up and offering... (full context)
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Beah knows, as they are brought in front of the chief, that he is unlikely to... (full context)
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Beah, for once, does not enjoy the dancing. He is thinking of being thrown into the... (full context)
Chapter 10
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Beah looks upon the moon one night, noticing how it is often covered by clouds, but... (full context)
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On the other hand, Beah knows that there are the times that good things happen, and that they are kept... (full context)
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As the others boys fall asleep that night, Beah remembers how wonderful his name-giving ceremony was, how safe he felt to be welcomed into... (full context)
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Beah says that the moon followed them at night, but that it also hid at night... (full context)
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That night is too dark for Beah, ominously so, but the boys must walk on. At a bridge, they hide from some... (full context)
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...even comes and tells them that she recognizes them and has seen Junior, and that Beah’s mother and father are two days’ walk away. Beah is elated. That night they steal... (full context)
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Beah cannot believe Saidu has died. He thinks at first that he has simply fainted and... (full context)
Chapter 11
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At a banana farm, they come across a man whom Beah recognizes from Mogbwemo, Gasemu. He asks them to help carry some bananas to the village... (full context)
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...and people begin screaming. Smoke rises above the village. Gasemu tries to stop him, but Beah runs ahead to the village. The entire village is on fire, and in one house,... (full context)
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Beah runs around the village, trying to find his family, but the bodies are all too... (full context)
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Beah is enraged at Gasemu for having them stop at the top of the hill. Beah... (full context)
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The boys pin Beah to the ground and argue over whether or not it is Gasemu’s fault that they... (full context)
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Ten rebels walk into the village, none of whom are much older than Beah. The boys hide. The rebels are high-fiving one another, and one of them is carrying... (full context)
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The boys run for hours with Gasemu’s encouragement, which continues to enrage Beah. Beah says that the moon disappeared and made the sky cry, which saved him from... (full context)
Chapter 12
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The boys walk for what Beah says must have been days, when they are confronted by two men with guns. The... (full context)
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...and violence, despite it being an army base. There are over 30 orphan boys like Beah, who live in an unfinished cement house and help with the cooking. Beah tries to... (full context)
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...lieutenant, Jabati, gives a speech that the boys try to eavesdrop on unsuccessfully. Jabati sees Beah watching him, and the two talk. Jabati is reading Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” while the soldiers... (full context)
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That night Beah the boys don’t speak or play, and Beah cannot sleep. In the morning, they are... (full context)
Chapter 13
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...guns, as they are too heavy to carry, and in fact taller than the boys. Beah says he was never so afraid as he was that day. The soldiers form an... (full context)
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The army attacks the rebels, and a gunfight ensues. Beah is in shock and unable to fire his gun, until he sees Josiah and Musa... (full context)
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...no other crickets join in. Blood replaces the water of the swamp. After the battle, Beah kicks over bodies angrily and takes weapons and ammunition. He regrets dragging Josiah to training... (full context)
Chapter 14
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When Beah is not off fighting, he takes turns guarding the village. He regularly smokes marijuana and... (full context)
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...watch more movies, and go to villages to gather more recruits. Killing becomes easy for Beah, and he no longer thinks of death. After one fight, a prisoner spits in Lieutenant... (full context)
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...are ordered to slit the throat of a designated prisoner while Jabati times them, and Beah does so without thinking about it or feeling any compassion for the prisoner. He does... (full context)
Chapter 15
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Beah fights as a child soldier for the government for two years. He thinks of nothing... (full context)
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...and picks boys from the line without telling them what is going on. Alhaji and Beah are chosen, and only once they have turned over their guns are they told what... (full context)
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Beah is angry and shoves the city soldier who tries to search him, threatening to kill... (full context)
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As night approaches, Beah is amazed by how many lights there are in the city. The boys are brought... (full context)
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The man takes them to the kitchen, and Beah eyes the other boys suspiciously. The boys are brought rice, and Alhaji wonders where they... (full context)
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...taken to a rehabilitation house called Benin Home in Kissy Town, in east Freetown. All Beah can think about is his squad. He’d rather be high and watching war movies, and... (full context)
Chapter 16
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Beah says that the boys’ fury at the civilians was such that the boys would respond... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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Beah remembers a mission while he was still in the army I which Beah and Alhaji... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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Beah remembers that after rebels attacked and overran the base in which his squad had trained,... (full context)
Chapter 17
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A nurse named Esther comes to Beah one day a few months after he cut his hand, and gives him a cold... (full context)
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In Beah’s story, his squad is drawn into a village and ambushed. Five of their men are... (full context)
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Esther is crying because of Beah’s story. Esther makes a mistake, and tells Beah it is not his fault, making him... (full context)
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Despite Esther having said it wasn’t his fault, Beah continues to go to her, and one day he is taken into the city for... (full context)
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Beah has a new, horrible dream, in which he is surrounded in his house by men... (full context)
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Beah goes to Esther to talk about his dream, and she gets him to talk about... (full context)
Chapter 18
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Beah tells Esther one day after five months at the center that he has no family... (full context)
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Visitors from the European Commission come to see Benin Home, and during their visit Beah reads a monologue from Julius Caesar and performs a hip hop play. Mr. Kamara, the... (full context)
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Beah learns from Leslie, a staff member at Benin House, that boys at the home can... (full context)
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Beah is brought to meet his uncle’s family. He is greeted as a son by his... (full context)
Chapter 19
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Two weeks later, Beah is to begin living with his uncle. He says goodbye to his friends and Esther.... (full context)
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Beah moves in with his uncle’s family, staying in Allie’s room. He’s given a welcome home... (full context)
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Beah dates the girl briefly, after seeing her at the pub again, but feels he cannot... (full context)
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Not long after, Leslie comes to see Beah and tells him that he has an opportunity to interview for the chance to go... (full context)
Chapter 20
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Beah travels to New York with Bah, the other boy chosen to speak to the UN,... (full context)
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Beah also meets Laura Simms, a woman who works at the United Nations. She promises the... (full context)
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Laura Simms accompanies Beah, Bah, and Dr. Tamba back to the airport. The mood in the car is somber,... (full context)
Chapter 21
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Back in Sierra Leone, Beah’s childhood friend, Mohamed, who had also ended up at Benin House, has also now moved... (full context)
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...government, called Sobels, shuts down schools and even blows up bank vaults to get money. Beah says there is nothing to do but sit around, as it is too dangerous to... (full context)
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...who fails to put down the food she is carrying as they ordered her to. Beah and Mohamed try to sneak away, but get stuck in a crowd of people protesting... (full context)
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Beah’s uncle gets sick, but there is no way to get him to a doctor in... (full context)
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A week after his uncle passes away, on October 31, 1997, Beah leaves Freetown, telling only Mohamed about his plan. Beah leaves before dawn and sneaks past... (full context)
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In Conakry, Beah isn’t sure what to do next. He has no one to stay with, so he... (full context)