A Long Way Gone

by Ishmael Beah

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What's an example of irony in A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah?

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In A Long Way Gone, the example of irony that supports the theme there is hope in horrific situations is the recurring mention of Ishmael’s love of rap music. When the story opens, before the violent events that overtake his life, Ishmael talks about how much he and his friends love rap music and believe that listening to it helps them to learn English. He says, "The four of us had started a rap and dance group when I was eight. We were first introduced to rap music during one of our visits to Mobimbi . . . . One evening a music video that consisted of a bunch of young black fellows talking really fast came on the television. The four of us sat there mesmerized."

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An overwhelming irony surrounds the death of Ishmael Beah's family in A Long Way Gone. All the while that Beah spends on the run, he desperately wants to find his family. In every village that he and his friends encounter, Beah first checks to see if his family has...

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passed through the area. So, when Beah finally meets Gasemu and learns that his family has been staying in a nearby village, he is overjoyed. Ironically, when Beah arrives with Gasemu in the village, the rebels have beat them to it and have burned down the entire village. No remains are found, but Gasemu tells Beah that his family had been staying in a hut that is totally burned. This sad irony haunts Beah throughout the remainder of his story.

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In A Long Way Gone, what is an example of irony that supports the theme there is hope in horrific situations?

One example of irony in A Long Way Gone that supports the theme there is hope in horrific situations is the recurring mention of Ishmael’s love of rap music. When the story opens, before the violent events that overtake his life, Ishmael talks about how much he and his friends love rap music and believe that listening to it helps them to learn English. He says,

"The four of us had started a rap and dance group when I was eight. We were first introduced to rap music during one of our visits to Mobimbi . . . . One evening a music video that consisted of a bunch of young black fellows talking really fast came on the television. The four of us sat there mesmerized.”

The boys begin to sing the songs themselves and dance to the music and even incorporate some of the lyrics into their everyday greetings. For instance, they say “Peace, son” or “I’m out” to one another as a greeting.

As Ishmael is forced to leave his village and try to get to safety, the rap music plays a role in his escape. It becomes an ironic reminder that there is sometimes hope and humor even in the most dire situations. He and others come to a village where the villagers believe that the boys might be mercenaries or even soldiers. The village chief tells them,

'You children have become little devils, but you came to the wrong village.' He used his staff to gesture instead of his hands. 'Well, this is the end of the road for devils like you. Out there in the ocean, even you rascals cannot survive.'

The village men find the rap music cassettes and listen to the music, instructing Ishmael and the others to demonstrate how they used to dance to it and mimic the lyrics. Thus, during their captivity in the village, at the command of the village chief, they begin to dance and sing.

The image of these captive children being forced to perform a rap dance for the villagers provides ironic insight into the parallel of the violence currently threatened and soon to be reality, and the innocence of their original love of the music.

That the boys love rap music is another example of irony, as certain rap songs appear to be violent. In fact, when Ishmael is being cared for in the hospital, he listens to “It’s like that” by Run-D.M.C. on his Walkman. The song talks about death in a matter-of-fact way:

People coming, people going, people born to dieDon't ask me, because I don't know whyBut it's like that, and that's the way it is.

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