A Long Way Gone

A Long Way Gone Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
As the boys are walking one day, they hear an unidentifiable roar. Terrified but curious, the boys go to find out what the noise is. It turns out to be the ocean, much to the boys’ wonder and delight. The boys play in the sand on the beach, forgetting their troubles momentarily.
Nature is again wondrous and mysterious for the boys, allowing them to act as what they are, boys. The boys are not preoccupied with their past, or what they will do next, but enjoying the moment.
Themes
Children in War Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
The boys see huts in the distance, and run to them hopefully, but are surprised to find them empty. Then villagers with machetes and fishing spears spring from behind the huts. The boys protest that they are harmless, but are tied up and taken to the village’s chief.
Nature proves to be distracting, again, and in their delight, the boys fail to be as cautious as they otherwise might have been. Even this far from the war, people appear to have heard rumors of the danger of children.
Themes
Children in War Theme Icon
Companionship, Hope, and the Self Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
The villagers rip the clothes the boys use to cover their feet and chase them onto the sand, which is hot enough to burn the boys’ feet, as the temperature in the middle of the day is over 120 degrees. The boys would walk closer to the water, but the waves are dangerously large.
The villagers assume guilt, and send the boys to a cruel fate. What was beautiful and awesome to the boys is now dangerous and painful.
Themes
Children in War Theme Icon
The Horror of War Theme Icon
Guilt and Responsibility Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
The boys walk in great pain till sunset, the soles of their feet bleeding. Finally, the tearful boys come upon a hut, go inside and sit down, the flesh of their feet having separated from the sole. The man whose hut it is sees the boys’ suffering and brings them food and has them heat their feet over some sort of grass, which lessens the pain, and gives them some ointment. It turns out he is from the village they were just chased from.
The kindness of the man is exceptional. Few others are able to see and respond to the boys’ pain, which is readily obvious, because of their own fear of the rebels. At his own risk, the man gives the boys shelter.
Themes
Children in War Theme Icon
The Horror of War Theme Icon
Companionship, Hope, and the Self Theme Icon
Guilt and Responsibility Theme Icon
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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, and never about their families. After four nights, the pain in his feet starts to subside. The boys stay in the hut for a week, which is only half a mile from the village they were chased out of. The man takes them to the ocean, and encourages them to soak their feet in the saltwater to help the healing. The boys are envious of the man, who is getting married soon, and seems to be very content with his life near the ocean. The man, for his part, is shocked by the boys’ story and how far they have traveled.
There is too much pain in their loss to confront yet, and so the boys stick to a more emotionally shallow kind of relationship in order to keep each other going. The man’s kindness to the boys makes them feel a great deal of affection for him. He is also the only person, so far, to ask the boys for their full story—to be interested in them as human beings. Nature is now a healer, and is proving ultimately, to be capricious, rather than an agent of good or bad.
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
One morning, after two weeks in the man’s hut, an old woman comes to the hut and tells the boys that the people of the village had found 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 his hands to be tied, but the men cannot risk anything, and approach him as if he were a rebel.
But as with all the comfort and kindness the boys might get, this instance of it must end as well. Despite the fact that they have done nothing to harm the villagers and are only children, the boys are treated like villains.
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 knows, as they are brought in front of the chief, that he is unlikely to find someone from Mattru Jong among the villagers, which was what saved him the last time he was captured. The chief tells them they will be thrown into the ocean, and has his men undress the boys. As they are doing so, Beah’s rap cassette fall out of his pockets. The chief wants to hear it, and when he does, he is intrigued by it. Beah explains rap music to him, and how he used to dance with his brothers, and the chief asks him to show him.
This is the second time the cassette has saved Beah from a gruesome fate at the hands of villagers protecting themselves. That Beah has the cassette indicates his interest in music, which then suggests some aspect of his humanity and status as a child, which immediately softens the villagers stance toward him. The cassette therefore functions as a kind of real-world symbol of Beah’s past and childhood, which as we will see later in the book are exactly the things that child soldiers seem to have had stripped from them.
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, for once, does not enjoy the dancing. He is thinking of being thrown into the ocean, and is not dancing with his brother, Junior. But the chief begins to relax, and starts to understand he really is just dealing with boys. He lets the boys go, and the boys laugh to avoid crying.
Beah is not sure of what the chief will think, but he does not like having to dance for him. That Beah must do this, despite his malnutrition, despite that he is unarmed, all just to show he is only a child, shows how distrustful the people of Sierra Leone have become.
Themes
Children in War Theme Icon
The Horror of War Theme Icon
Companionship, Hope, and the Self Theme Icon
Guilt and Responsibility Theme Icon