A Long Way Gone

by Ishmael Beah

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What is an example of an allusion in Chapter 1 of A Long Way Gone and its significance?

Quick answer:

An allusion in the first chapter of A Long Way Gone concerns the Rambo films. It shows the way Ishmael had previously thought about war: a faraway entertainment. The conversation Ishmael has with his later classmates also belies the importance of film to our perception of war. The other schoolchildren also think of his experiences in terms of cool, romanticized movies.

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One allusion that appears in the first chapter of A Long Way Home is Ishmael’s reference to one of the Rambo films. He mentions that at age ten, he had seen and heard survivors from the war zones who came as refugees to his town. He and his townsfolk had not yet been affected. He thought that their claims were exaggerated, as his ideas about war came from what he had read in books or heard on the news, or “seen in movies such as Rambo: First Blood….”

This allusion also picks up with the single page titled “New York City, 1998,” that begins the book. Ishmael presents a conversation with his classmates. When he acknowledges that he had witnessed people with guns with guns shooting one another, the other child responds: “Cool” (emphasis in original). This shows that the others could not imagine that he could have done those things. However, they share the romantic fantasy of war that Ishmael himself constructed from such movies before he was caught up in an actual war.

Beah also mentions his initial introduction to rap, when he and his friends saw a music video on television. It was called “Sugarhill Gang: ‘Rappers’ Delight.’” This allusion emphasis the importance of imported popular culture. Soon after seeing the video, the boys started their own hip-hop and dance group. Their exposure to the music video came about because they were able to attend a recreational facility used by foreign workers. Ishmael’s father worked for the same company. Ironically, the boys’s rapping saved their lives. They had just left town to attend a hip-hop competition when the soldiers raided their village.

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