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Horrific Experience With War And Violence In Ishmael Beah’s Book A Long Way Gone

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Ishmael Beah’s book A Long Way Gone tells a horrific story of how of Beah was impacted by violence. Beah grows up in a violent setting and his exposure to violence has an impact on his beliefs and emotions. The impact of being exposed to violence at such a young age causes damage to Beah’s mental and emotional well-being. Specifically, exposure to violence takes away Beah own sense of innocence, gives him feelings of hopelessness and insecurity, and causes him much guilt.

Beah’s horrific experience with war and violence leads to a loss of childlike innocence. In the beginning of the book Beach hears only rumors of a war. Beah states, “There were all kinds of stories told about the war that made it sound as if it was happening in a faraway and different land” (Beah 5). Before war reaches Beah, he is still innocent like a child. He enjoys dance and hip-hop music. He even formed a hip-hop band at age 8. We see how child-like Beah is before he is sucked into the war when he writes about his love of dance, “…he brought me cassettes and taught my friends and me how to dance to what we came to know as hip- hop. I loved the dance, and particularly enjoyed learning the lyrics, because they were poetic; and it improved my vocabulary (Beah 6). Beah’s innocence is shown by his love of hip-hop dance and music. However, the violence does reaches Beah and his innocence is lost. He is only 12 years old when he is forced to become a child soldier. We see evidence that Beah losses his innocence after he becomes a solider, “My squad is my family, my gun is my provider, and protector, and my rule is to kill or be killed” (Beah 116). Beah is a soldier now and his views are now to kill someone or else he will be killed. He no longer sees the world as a child but instead he is filled with feeling of vengeance. The rebels he is fighting are responsible for killing his family and he now wants revenge for their deaths. “I joined the army to avenge the deaths of my family and to survive…” (Beah 199). Beah’s innocence is further lost when he actually kills the rebels who killed his family and Beah discovers that he does not feel any better after avenging his family’s deaths. By being forced into fighting war as a child, Beah has his childhood and innocence taken from him, “Our innocence had been replaced by fear and we had become monsters. There was nothing we could do about it. Sometimes we ran after people shouting that we were not what they thought, but this made them more scared” (Beah 55). This quote shows that not only has Beah lost his innocence, but other people see it too. They do not see him as a child but rather as a dangerous solider that they are afraid to be near. All the violence had taken away Beah’s his sense of innocence.

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Beah’s experience as a child solider created feelings of being insecure, unsafe and hopelessness. The violence of war caused Beah to witness his village being destroyed. He luckily escaped but he soon realizes that he needs to leave his village, “We decided to leave the village the next day and go somewhere safe, somewhere far away from where we were. We had no idea where we would go or even how to get to a safe place, but we were determined to find one” (Beah 36). The quote demonstrates that Beah feels insecure staying near his home. The war that he thought was far away has now taken over his village and feels unsafe and insecure. Later Beah begins to loss hope and he is looking for some type of inspiration to maintain his hope. He is feeling lonely when he remembers the words of his father in writing, “When I was very little, my father used to say, “If you are alive, there is hope for a better day and something good to happen. If there is nothing good left in the destiny of a person, he or she will die” (Beah 54). The fact that Beah has to remember the words of his father’s optimism shows that Beah himself is starting to lose hope. Beah’s struggle with hope all throughout the book and we see numerous times where Beah does something to help give himself hope. His life was so traumatic that he seeks to be ‘normal things’ in the hopes of feeling more ‘normal’. Beah states, “Even though our journey was difficult, every once in a while, we were able to do something that was normal and made us happy for a brief moment (Beah 70). Beah’s live is mostly dominated by the need to just survive. He struggles with hunger and despair. To combat his feelings of hopelessness, Beah tries to do ‘normal’ things so he can feel some type of happiness. It is one ways Beah survives his circumstances is by finding was to regain hope and optimism. However, Beah finds himself homeless and without any parents. He wants to believe things will improve but his circumstances create feelings of despair and hopelessness. Beah exclaims, “One of the unsettling things about my journey, mentally, physically, and emotionally, was that I was not sure when or where it was going to end” (Beah 69). Beah hopelessness is because he is roaming the country wanting to escape the war and does not understand everything that is happening to him. The combination of these events and circumstances leaves Beah, who expresses optimism many times throughout the book, to also express feelings of insecurity, despair and lost hope.

Serving as a child solider forces Beah to do things he would have never done otherwise. In the beginning of the book Beah is an optimistic child. However, his optimism is quickly challenged once he is fighting in the war and is forced to kill others. This causes him great feelings of guilt. Beah as a child was forced to fight in a war what he had to do to survive should not be held against him but he finds himself feeling guilty about it. Later Beah goes to a rehabilitation center where they try to help Beah with is guilt. Esther, a nurse tells him, “None of what happened was your fault. You were just a little boy, and anytime you want to tell me anything, I am here to listen” (Beah 160). Esther tries to comfort Beah by telling him his violent actions were not his fault but he us unwilling to accept that. Beah was manipulated into having feelings of joy whenever he fights or killed someone and he feels very guilty about it. His guilt results in him having migraine headaches and trying use drugs to make him feel less guilty. Later, when Beah and other child soldiers are at a rehabilitation center and the staff consistently tells the boys that what they did was not their fault. They tell the boys,” This isn’t your fault, you know. It really isn’t. You’ll get through this” (Beah 151). However, these assurances do not comfort Beah. In one way he feels right for killing the rebels that killed his family but then his guilt over these feelings overtake him. It is almost like Beah’s experience with war made it difficult to recall anything that happened to him before the war. “I would desperately try to think about my childhood but I couldn’t. The war memories had formed a barrier that I had to break in order to think about any moment in my life before the war” (Beah 149). Beah spends the reminder of his life trying to make sense and meaning of what happened to him. He struggles with guilt and regret through much of it.

Ishmael Beah lived a traumatic life. Being forced to serve as a child solider in Sierra Leone during a civil war exposed him to gruesome violence, robbed him of his childhood and gave him feelings of guilt and hopelessness. As a pre-teen he encounters murder, death and suffering. This violence has a dramatic impact on his mental and emotional well-being. However, I am impressed that he survived his circumstances and he is using his experiences to help others. I believe that the fact the Beah was able to be resilient and share his story shows that he is a hero and not a victim.

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Horrific Experience With War And Violence In Ishmael Beah’s Book A Long Way Gone. (2022, March 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 8, 2023, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/horrific-experience-with-war-and-violence-in-ishmael-beahs-book-a-long-way-gone/
“Horrific Experience With War And Violence In Ishmael Beah’s Book A Long Way Gone.” Edubirdie, 17 Mar. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/horrific-experience-with-war-and-violence-in-ishmael-beahs-book-a-long-way-gone/
Horrific Experience With War And Violence In Ishmael Beah’s Book A Long Way Gone. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/horrific-experience-with-war-and-violence-in-ishmael-beahs-book-a-long-way-gone/> [Accessed 8 Feb. 2023].
Horrific Experience With War And Violence In Ishmael Beah’s Book A Long Way Gone [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Mar 17 [cited 2023 Feb 8]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/horrific-experience-with-war-and-violence-in-ishmael-beahs-book-a-long-way-gone/
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