A Long Way Gone

12 December 2016

Beah describes his life as a child soldier in the civil war of his home country in Sierra Leone during the 1990’s in his novel, A Long Way Gone. The beliefs of both John Locke and Thomas Hobbes are incorporated throughout the story. There are examples of how people can be naturally selfish and wicked but also how others can learn from their experiences and look after the welfare of society. In Beah’s novel, the civil war in Sierra Leone gives such examples proving Hobbes and Locke correct. (57)

Thomas Hobbes believed that without government there would be war of every man against every man and people’s lives would be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”. In the novel, Hobbes’ ideas about life without government are proved to be true. We see his ideas as Ishmael becomes a child soldier and he goes out to kill others. People just like Ishmael and his family were willing to kill others just because they could. Throughout the story, soldiers would shoot others for no reason or shot them just because they thought they killed one of their fellow soldiers.

A Long Way Gone Essay Example

This proves that when there is no government, people will turn against each other and it will be war of every man against every man. Ishmael and his friends were held at gunpoint several times by people just like him because they thought they were rebels because of their age and how similar they looked to rebels. Ishmael describes, “Many times during our journey we were surrounded by muscular men with machetes who almost killed us before they realized that we were just children running away from the war. ” (57). This shows that people could not trust anyone.

Anyone who is considered or looks like a threat to them, they are willing to kill. Many people were very lonesome and it was every man for himself. In the book, Ishmael said, “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. ” (37). John Locke believed that people would learn from their experiences and that they have a natural ability to govern their own affairs and to look after the welfare of society.

He believed that in times of trouble, people will subject themselves to political authority to gain civil rights in return. We see Locke’s ideas when Ishmael and his friends become soldiers after they are told that they will have to in order to stay in the village that they were living in at the time. The lieutenant explained, “We need strong men and boys to help us fight these guys, so that we can keep this village safe. If you do not want to fight or help, that is fine. But you will not have rations and will not stay in this village. (106).

Ishmael and his friends chose to become soldiers so that they would be able to have a place to stay and food to eat. It would also give them protection and as Ishmael said, “We had no choice. Leaving the village was as good as being dead. ” (107). Another example that proves Locke’s ideas to be correct was when Ishmael and his friends were held at gunpoint by rebels and he would do anything that he was told in order to stay alive. The rebel told them, “If any of you makes a move, I will kill everyone. ” (32).

People would do anything to stay alive and protect their families. These examples give proof of Locke’s idea that people will give up their “state of nature” to have laws and protections from others. In conclusion, both John Locke and Thomas Hobbes’ ideas can be proved correct in Ishmael Beah’s novel, A Long Way Gone. Without government there would be war of every man against every man but we also give up our “state of nature” to have laws and protections from others. The civil war in Sierra Leone is a great example of the two thinkers’ writings both proving to be right.

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