Study Guide

A Long Way Gone

by Ishmael Beah

A Long Way Gone Themes

Themes

Learning From the Experiences of Others

At the end of his memoir, Beah recalls a story that he heard many times as a boy. In the story, a hunter prepares to shoot a monkey but the monkey warns the hunter that if he shoots, his mother will die, but if he does not shoot, his father will die. The storyteller would then ask the audience, “What would you do if you were the hunter?” Beah recalls that no one would ever answer the question for fear of their parents. He, however, silently resolved that although he loved his mother, he “would shoot the monkey so that it would no longer have the chance to put other hunters in the same predicament.” This anecdote serves as a thematic lens for the entire memoir and posits Beah as a voice for child soldiers around the world. Certainly we can assume that Beah would not have wanted to become a child soldier during his life, just like the hunter in the story would not have wanted his mother to die after shooting the monkey. However, through this experience comes the opportunity for educating people around the world to the plight of child soldiers; and possibly through Beah’s story, members of the global community will become concerned, educated, and involved in eradicating children’s forced participation in warfare.

Power in the Unity of Friendship

Along the way, Beah and his friends learn the power in the unity of friendship. He begins his flight with a group of local friends, but he is separated from these boys.  He is afraid to be alone, and along the way, he meets other boys who are in the same situation. He distrusts them at first as they distrust him; however, they all soon learn the strength that may be developed in a group. During the journey, Beah considers his friends his family because they are all he has left. He travels with groups of boys for safety and companionship. After Beah is taken to the rehabilitation hospital by UNICEF, he continues to see his friends and other residents of the hospital as the only people who...

(The entire section is 823 words.)

Ed. Scott Locklear