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Notes: A Long Way Gone – Ishmael Beah Essay

Chapter 2 notes The imagery in this chapter is a jarring contrast to chapter one when Ishmael played music and went to school and had a loving family. It is filled with memories and dream imagery that are horrifying to both Ishmael and the reader. Chapter 3 notes

This chapter is filled with contrasts, especially the days of peace versus the days of war. There is also the contrast of Ishmael cooking dinner as gunshots ring out throughout the town. There is the contrast of people running for their lives over the bodies of those who have fallen. Finally, there is the contrast of a town filled with sounds of life and one filled with fear and death. Ishmael, Junior and the other boys are now officially on the run. Chapter 4 notes

This chapter reveals six boys in a desperate condition. They are starving and there is no food anywhere. Because this is the situation when war exists, the boys begin to adapt to their new lives by becoming what they might never have become before. They steal and they never stop to help others for it might mean the loss of their own lives. Chapter 5 notes

The boys are finally captured and are nearly killed. Once again, new gunfire saves them and they run for their lives. These near misses make the reader feel like the boys are on borrowed time. Eventually, they will be captured for good or die. It seems inevitable. The idea that they have been awakened from a nightmare or a dream is very poignant. These are just young boys who have been forced by circumstances beyond their control to learn survival tactics when only days before they were growing up together and singing the rap music they loved. Chapter 6 notes

This chapter is somewhat of a contrast to the violence of the war. Life continues to go on in the village of Kamator where Ishmael is reminded of life in his own village and how much his brother Junior loved him and cared for him. They were motherless misfits there, and now they are motherless misfits once again. Chapter 7 notes

Ishmael is alone because he ran in the other direction from the village therefore making wind up all alone. Chapter 8 notes Ishmael is lonely and is not trusted by anyone and this just reinforces his loneliness and sadness. Chapter 9 notes It seems as if in some ways, the boys lead charmed lives and in others, they face nothing but adversity. They see the beauty of the ocean, only to be forced to walk on sand so hot it burns their feet terribly. They are cared for by a good, decent fisherman, only to be captured by villagers who fear them and want to kill them. Then, unbelievably, the cassette tapes save their lives once more. However, in the end, they desperately need the blessings the fisherman’s mother offered them. Chapter 10 notes

In this chapter Ishmael meets some old school friends (Musa, Kanei, Alhaji, Jumah, Saidu and Moriba) in a village which makes Ishmael relieved. The gang find a dead crow and a couple decide to eat it since they are extremely hungry while the others decide not to. Saidu who is one of the ones that ate the crow predicts his own death and it comes true. They then come across an odd village with just one big house Ishmael even as he feels happiness as he learns that his family is to be found in the next village.

Chapter 11 notes The most poignant aspect of this chapter is the irony of Ishmael finding his family only to lose them once more before he even can see them or say goodbye. His ability to escape capture by the rebels again is almost like the literary deus ex machina (god by way of a machine), a literary device that almost seems contrived. It makes the reader wonder when Ishmael’s luck will run out. Chapter 12 notes

This chapter is full of ironies. First, the boys arrive in a village, which seems to be acting normally and living life as they always have. The soldiers are there to protect the village, but the truth is the rebels are greater in number and heading their way. The new army is made up of boys, some as young as seven.


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