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A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, Coursework Example

Pages: 3

Words: 861

Coursework

Introduction

In this biography, the author would like to tell a story that makes the West understand what it means that there is a conflict in Africa. Escaping Sierra Leone, and finishing his education in the United States, Beah faces the truth: Americans can simply not imagine the life he left behind. He finds no other way of telling the truth than through writing an autobiography and reflecting on other people’s response at the same time.

One Cannot Understand Others’  Situation

The first thing that I learned from the book is that war affects people’s lives, and it should be looked at as something real, instead of considering it a part of the News entertainment. Just like the author does not fully grasp the American reality from the Rap music videos and the BBC News programs, Americans are unable to understand the depth of suffering in the other side of the world. Certainly, people will not be able to understand the emotional impact of a situation, until they lived at the same place and experienced the same issues. People that Beah talks to have no idea how it feels like seeing children die, and being told that the war started to make life better. People in the United States and generally in the West do not know how people in Africa struggle to get their children to school. Something that is a basic human right in the West is a privilege in Africa. Before reading the book, I also relied on news reports and documentaries about the life of tribes in Africa. Not many of them covered the everyday violence that is a part of people’s lives. I learned to appreciate to come from a stable home, being allowed to go to school, and not being forced to fight to survive. Many children in countries like Sierra Leone have no choice for the future. They simply need to make a decision based on the chances of survival. This is why Beah becomes a boy solider. For months before he joins the army, he suffers from hunger, sickness, pain, and terror. As a child, he does not feel safe, and the military at least provides him with basic protection and food.

Love Has The Power Of Healing

The second theme that had an impact on me was that forgiveness of others can help one forgive himself. Even though Beah becomes a boy soldier, takes drugs, and commits several crimes during his young life, he can still find love. Our past should not define us, and meeting the right people helps recovering from a trauma that can ruin people’s entire life. Beah first meets the nurse, Esther, and  starts trusting her. He realizes that he has to share his experiences, or the image of the slaughtered people will never disappear from his dreams. When he arrives at the United States, and meets his future foster mother, Laura Simms, he knows that by telling the story he can slowly overcome the pain. Esther and Laura are able to give him back his lost childhood. He gets a cassette player with Rap music from Esther, and remembers what it was like before his entire life changed. He knows that it will not be easy to overcome guilt and shame, but having people who accept him as he is helps a lot. In this book, forgiveness and understanding off others is represented as the most powerful and effective way of overcoming self-hatred and guilt. At the Benin House, staff tells the boys rescued: “This isn’t your fault, you know. It really isn’t. You’ll get though this.”(Beah, 151), and they do. Without encouragement and love, however, they would not succeed.

Do Not Give Up Hope

The third message I took away from reading the “A Long Way Gone” is related to not giving up. In life, all people arrive at a point when they think they have no chance of improving their situation. The broken childhood of the author is a good example of this. Living on his own and left to fend for himself, joining the military and becoming an addict might seem like a situation without a way out. However, when Beah is rescued and treated at the hospital, he finally realizes that he is not simply another murderer, but a human being who can build connections. His luck turns, and he finds people who care about him, feel sorry for him, and want to help. He gets a foster mother who wants to understand what the boy went through and would like to give him a chance for a better life. Beah finally gets to go to school and starts reconnecting with the child that has been buried for so long. Beah lost his family, found a family in the “squad” that made him a  cold-blooded murderer and an addict. He was always looking for a real caring family.  His mother could not send her to school before the war, and his father stopped paying. In the end, however, his dream comes true, and be becomes an educated American to tell the stories that news reports do not cover.

Works Cited

Beah, Ishmael. A long way gone: Memoirs of a boy soldier. Macmillan, 2007.

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