What is the significance of the title A Long Way Gone?

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teachertaylor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The title of Beah's memoir A Long Way Gone refers to the rocky journey that Beah has taken as a former child soldier.  He is forced into the army so that he can survive, and the lessons that he learns as a soldier are strikingly different from the values that his parents tried to instill in him when he was a child.  As a soldier, he learns how to kill without conscience, and he spends most of his days dazed by the effects of alcohol and drug abuse.  So in this way, he is "a long way gone" from the life that he previously led.

Beah's parents separated when he was young; however, they still tried to teach him the importance of family, unity, and respect.  Later, his parents are killed in a village raid, so after Beah is rescued from the army and receives rehabilitation, he goes to live with his uncle.  Beah is one of several other children that his aunt and uncle have taken in to raise, and Beah thus builds on the sense of familial unity that his parents taught him as a young child.

The title might also refer to the life that is waiting for Beah at the end of his journey.  After he leaves his uncle's home in Sierra Leone, he goes to New York to live with a woman whom he met at a United Nations conference.  So he will be "a long way gone" from his home country, only this time to encounter a positive experience.

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A Long Way Gone

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