Can someone please provide a very detailed summary of each of the chapters in Ishmael Beah's memoir A Long Way Gone?

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A detailed description of each of 21 chapters is not possible within the confines of this format.  What follows is an attempt at providing some details.

Chapter 1: Ishmael’s childhood, beginning at the age of ten, when he, his brother Junior and their friend Talloi, travel to the town of Mattru Jong to take part in a talent show, along the way visiting with their grandmother before meeting up with more friends.  Unaware of the scale of the fighting, they are surprised to learn of an attack on their village by insurgents.  Failing to return to their village because of the fighting and the flow of refugees they encounter, they return to Mattru Jong to await their fate.  Ishmael has a nightmare in which he envisions the destruction of his village.

2: Begins with Ishmael’s nightmare following which he awakens in “present-day” New York, where he would eventually find refuge.  The nightmares, however, continue from the safety of his new home in the United States, including his role as a child soldier in the massacre of civilians.

3: The story returns to Sierra Leone, where Ishmael, Junior and Talloi receive word from a boy sent by the insurgents and on whose body they burned the movement’s initials, RUF (Revolutionary United Front).  The boy, sent as a messenger, warns of the impending approach of the RUF, precipitating panic amid the villagers.  Ishmael, Junior and their friends manage to evade capture.

4: The boys embark on a long, harrowing journey, to their native village.  Along the way, they witness the ravages of war, with destroyed villages and murdered victims littering the way.  They are desperately hungry and physically exhausted, and become increasingly wary of the growing presence of RUF soldiers all around.  They are almost spotted by RUF sentries when crossing a field covered with corpses slaughtered by the insurgents.  At one point, Junior pretends to be dead in order to avoid capture after they inadvertently drop something out of one of their pockets, the sound alerting soldiers to their presence.

5: The boys attack a child eating corn from nearby fields.  Despite the child’s mother’s attempts to help them, they have become hardened to humanitarian gestures.  Realizing that they can’t make it home, they attempt to return to Mattru Jong, but are captured by the RUF and subjected to the first of many horrors to come when the soldiers attempt to force the boys to kill each other.  They are also witness to the humiliation of an elderly man – a serious affront in a culture in which the elderly are traditionally held in high esteem.  When government soldiers arrive begin to fire upon the rebels, they once again manage to escape.

6: The boys continue their journey and are captured by village guards who suspect them of belonging to the RUF.  A cassette tape they are carrying of the music they performed at the talent show is initially treated with further distrust, but a local boy who was at the show confirms that Ishmael, Junior and their friends are innocent.  They continue their journey until reaching Kamator, a farming town where they take refuge while helping to plant seeds and prepare for the growing season.  The arrival of rebels, however, puts an end to their respite, and in the ensuing chaos, Ishmael and Junior are separated.

This is all that can fit within eNotes limits.