A Long Way Gone

1 January 2017

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, by Ishmael Beah, tells of the experiences in his intense journey through Sierra Leone during the outbreak of war. Beah had to learn to survive the harsh outcome of the war, resulting in the loss of those whom were close to him, family and friends, and trust in people. The book has a recurring theme of nature and the natural world. In the book, the world at night, as well as the moon, serves as both a safeguard and a bringer of bereavement. As a boy, Ishmael has heard stories and proverbs about the moon.

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An old man in his village would say, “We must strive to be like the moon. ” (Pg. 16) Ishmael’s grandmother explained that no one complained when the moon was present. Children would play and people would gather to tell stories and dance throughout the night. She said, “A lot of happy things happen when the moon shines. ” (Pg. 17) Not only does the moon bring nightfall, it also brings people together. After his grandmother tells him about the moon, Ishmael decides to observe it, to see if what she says is true. Every night, he would see different images but, in the end, it is still the moon.

Whenever Ishmael was thinking, he was constantly staring into the sky. It normally happened at night, since he could never get any sleep. “One night while I sat outside in a village square thinking about how far I had come and what might lie ahead, I looked into the sky and saw how the thick clouds kept trying to cover the moon, yet it would reappear again and again to shine all night long. ” (Pg. 70) He went one to compare his journey to that of the moon. No matter what obstacles he may face, there is always a way for him reach what he wants the most.

The clouds attempted to cover the moon, just as the rebels and close calls with death attempted to keep him from finding his family and freedom. Beah always talked about the nightmares and memories that would keep him up at night. Ishmael was afraid to sleep, afraid that his memories would return to him in a form of nightmares. “These days I live in three worlds: my dreams, and the experiences of my new life, which trigger memories from the past. ” (Pg. 20) His dreams and experiences of his new life are all of what he lives in. he memories of violence, suffering, and loss are all that he knows and will continue to. Beah always talked about staying up at night to avoid the nightmares, resulting in little sleep. “Often, my shadow would scare me and cause me to run for miles. ” (Pg. 49) After traveling, alone, for days and running on little sleep, Ishmael was beginning to imagine things. The lack of sleep was his way of avoiding the nightmares. He started to lose his hold on reality. He also quotes, “I became restless and was afraid to sleep for fear that my suppressed thoughts would appear in my dreams. (Pg. 52) Besides the nightmares, there were times that bad things happened at night. “I didn’t sleep that night. My hands began shaking as soon as my friends started snoring. I had a feeling that something bad was going to happen. ” (Pg. 84) After Saidu passes out during their journey, they come across a village where they are feed and are greeted by familiar faces. Saidu once said, “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. (Pg. 70) He explains that soon enough, he will completely die and only an empty body would remain. On this night, is when he completely dies. Ishmael had a feeling as though something bad would happen and in fact, something did. At night, Ishmael was afraid to sleep, afraid that the images and thoughts of his past would consume his dreams. That particular night, it seemed as though the world knew that death would come and take someone away. Ishmael could not sleep and the dogs cried throughout the night, which then woke up sleeping children who followed them in crying. We walked fast as if trying to stay in the daytime, afraid that nightfall would turn over the uncertain pages of our lives. ” (Pg. 88) Ishmael was afraid that the night would take one of them away, like it took away Saidu. At times, Ishmael feels that the night sky has also protected him from certain death. Ishmael and his friends, run until night comes and saves them from the rebels. “The moon disappeared and took the stars with it, making the sky weep. Its tears saved us from the red bullets. ” (Pg. 98) Ishmael explains that, he can see the redness that the guns give off when they are fired.

Another example of when the night is his savior, is when he is living in Freetown after the rebels overthrow the government. “Nightfall seemed far away, it felt like waiting for Judgment Day. ” (Pg. 206) Ishmael and his cousin attempt to make a dangerous trip to get some food from a secret market in town, when it is discovered by the rebels, Ishmael goes into hiding hoping that night would come. He compares the wait for nightfall to Judgment Day because the night sky is the only thing that could save him, in his predicament.

In A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, Beah frequently references to nature and the natural world; to nightfall and the presence of the moon. In the book, the world at night, as well as the moon, serves as both a safeguard and a bringer of bereavement. Beside the pain and suffering he endured from lack of sleep and fear of recurring nightmares, the night has also saved him in times of need. He may have lost a lot during the war but, there are some things that he has gained to make him the strong man he is today. Beah, Ishmael. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier.

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