The boys walk for what Beah says must have been days, when they are confronted by two men with guns. The men walk them through a gauntlet of soldiers, at the end of which are four dead bodies in uniform, one with his entrails spilling out and another with his head smashed in. A soldier tells them they’ll get used to it without explaining himself. The soldiers rush the boys to boats on the river while rebels begin to attack.
That the boys aren’t killed immediately by the soldiers is the good news. The bad news is that these men—while they don’t seem to be rebels—don’t seem all that inclined to protect the boys either. The man’s comment that the boys will “get used to” the blood and gore indicates that he expects the boys to see more of it. It is a bit of foreboding of what is to become.
The soldiers are from the government, and they take the boys to Yele, the town the boys had once hoped to reach. The boys feel safe at first, as the town seems free from worry 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 keep himself busy to ward off bad memories and migraines, but even playing soccer reminds him of his family, and so he spends time alone with the horrifying scenes, imagined and real, that play out in his head.
Despite the early danger, it seems as if the boys might finally have found safety. This might, in spite of everything, be enough for some of the boys, who return to soccer and other child-like activities without trouble. Beah, however, finds no respite from the horror, and cannot bring himself to enjoy playing.
One day the villagers become anxious as the soldiers appear to be preparing for war. Their 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 watch war movies. Beah is familiar with Shakespeare, and the lieutenant and Beah recite the monologue that begins “Cowards die many times before their deaths” together. In the middle of the night the soldiers go off to fight, and the boys can hear the gunfire in the distance. The moon shows its face in Beah’s window, and no one is at play.
The boys are again at a loss as to what is happening, and no one feels the need to tell the orphans if they are in danger or not. In the Shakespeare quote over which Beah bonds with the lieutenant, Caesar expounds on the necessity of courage as he refuses to listen to his wife and goes to face the Senate (where he will be stabbed to death). With the soldiers off to fight, the boys cannot help but remember how close to them war. In war, Beah sees none of the shapes that he used to in the moon, and does not look to it as a model.
Few soldiers return the next day, and those that do hold their heads in their hands or hold their guns close. Jabati is on the radio all day, and then some reinforcements arrive, to his relief. They head off for war immediately. The war gets closer and closer to the village as the days go on, and soldiers return for ammo, or with the wounded, who die in surgery. They never bring back the dead. The lieutenant gathers the villagers in the square and announces that the village is no longer safe, and that there is in fact no safe way out. He says that any boys and men who wish to stay must fight, and anyone who leaves or does not help will receive no rations.
The boys’ safety seems to be in jeopardy, and that of the soldiers is nonexistent. Jabati’s choice to tell the villagers that they are surrounded without giving anyone a choice seems intentionally coercive. Clearly he means to recruit these civilians into the army by force: while not quite as violent as the rebels, the army soldiers are here revealed as not much better, either.
The next day, the villagers gather again, and before assigning the villagers their tasks, Jabati shows them the bodies of two people who decided to flee, as a way of discouraging further flight. Reminding the villagers of the horrible things the rebels have done, he pleads with them to fight for their lives. Everyone is assigned their tasks, and the boys are all outfitted with guns, which they are terrified of.
Although it is possible that the rebels killed the people, the fact that the soldiers managed to get possession of the bodies points to the opposite, as the soldiers have never before tried to bring back their dead. This would indeed indicate that the Lieutenant is coercing the boys into fighting for him and the rest of the village into working for him.
That night Beah the boys don’t speak or play, and Beah cannot sleep. In the morning, they are outfitted with new clothes, and Beah’s pants are burned, with his rap cassette still in them. Beah must shake his tent mates, Sheiku and Josiah, awake and drag them from the tent. The boys are trained by Corporal Gadafi to army crawl and use hand signals. Beah remembers playing war as a child. The boys are encouraged to imagine the banana trees they are practicing with their bayonets on as the rebels who killed their families, and Beah takes an angry pleasure in doing so.
The boys appear to be on their way to being robbed of their boyhood for good. Beah’s cassette, a symbol of his childhood, is torched. The boys, who are still so young as to need help waking up, are then literally trained as soldiers. And more than trained: the officers equate the enemy with the murderers of the boy’s families in order to use the boys’ rage at the loss of their families to get them to embrace violence in precisely the way that the army wants. In other words, to brainwash them.