In the Shadow of War

by Ben Okri

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What are Omovo’s feelings toward the soldiers in "In the Shadow of War"?

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Omovo's feelings toward the soldiers evolve through the course of the story. His father has instructed him to refrain from listening to the radio (which offers news and details about the war). Later, Omovo is driven by curiosity to engage in brief interaction with the soldiers when he sees them giving food to other young children in the village. Though they seem kind enough, his attitude toward the soldiers alters dramatically when he later witnesses a severely wounded woman (who conceals such injuries by wearing a veil), shot and killed after bravely resisting the demands of the soldiers. Omovo, terrified after witnessing the soldiers murder a civilian without any hesitation, attempts to flee but knocks himself unconscious in the process. When he manages to come to, his father, who is revealed to be in the company of the soldiers, tells Omovo to thank the soldiers for removing him from the forest and bringing him back to the safety of his home.

Omovo is too young to readily comprehend that human beings are complex creatures that cannot be solely defined as completely good or completely bad. He does not understand that war often compels individuals—in this case, the soldiers—to act immorally or in ways that they otherwise may not. By the conclusion of the story, it is clear that some of Omovo's innocence has begun to fade away—recalling the reason why his father did not wish to expose his son to the realities of war.

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