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Study Guide: A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah: Book Summary

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A Long Way Gone Literary Element Analysis

SYMBOLISM / MOTIFS / METAPHORS / IMAGERY / SYMBOLS

Other elements that are present in this novel include symbols, metaphors, and imagery.
Symbols
are the use of some unrelated idea to represent something else.
Metaphors
are direct comparisons made between characters and ideas.
Imagery is the use of figures of speech or vivid description in writing to produce mental pictures.

There are many of these used by the author such as these METAPHORS:

1. The chapter opens with Ishmael once again fighting a dream. This time, it isnít something his mind imagines, but an actual memory mixed up with his imagination. He is pushing a wheelbarrow with a dead body in it, and there are other bodies bleeding and dying all around him. He doesnít know why he is taking this particular body to the cemetery, but he pushes on, oblivious to the cries of the dying. The body is wrapped in a white bed sheet and after Ishmael pulls it to the ground, he begins to unwrap it, noting that there are bullets all the way from his feet to his neck. He lifts the cloth and sees his own face. The dream is a metaphor for his fears for himself.

2. A boy playing with a stone reminds Ishmael of the time Junior had tried to teach him how to skip a stone across the river. He said it was magic to make the stone walk on water. However, no matter how he tried Ishmael couldnít do it and in trying, tipped over his water bucket and fell in the river. Junior had sent on home and filled both buckets. Then, when he came back to the house, Junior had looked Ishmael over carefully to make sure he was not hurt, and when he was done, he had tickled his little brother. It makes Ishmael want Junior to raise his head and ask his little brother if he is fine. This is a metaphor for civilization, proper behavior and family love.


3. When all the people go into hiding, even nature becomes afraid of what will happen. The crickets and birds stop singing and darkness seems to come on very fast. The moon isnít in the sky and the air is stiff. Fear is everywhere.

4. The boys begin walking back to Mattru Jong once more. When they arrive, it is empty, and they sit around the fire until dawn, never speaking a word. In the morning, they finally begin to discuss where they will go. It is as if they have been awakened from a nightmare or dream that has given them a different take on life and the situation they are in.

5. Ishmael also sees coconuts in nearly every village, but he just canít climb those trees. Then, one day, he is very tired and hungry and before he knows what he is doing, he mounts the coconut tree as fast as he can. He climbs down just as quickly with the coconuts he has plucked. He snacks on the meat of the fruit and the milk and rests in a hammock he finds. Once he is rested, he gets up and tries to climb the tree again, but is absolutely unable to do so, just like before. The realization of this makes him begin to laugh uncontrollably and he thinks he could have written a science paper on this experiment. This is a metaphor for how we can find the courage when we most need it.)

6. Ishmael is reminded of his childhood and a story his grandmother told about how wild pigs had come to hate humans. A human hunter knew of a plant which allowed him to change himself into a wild boar. He would lure real pigs where he could kill them after he changed himself back into a human. One of the pigs saw him eat the plant and the pigs then destroyed every plant so the hunter couldnít change himself back. They then tore him to pieces. It is a perfect metaphor for Ishmaelís own countrymen who have turned against the innocent among them.

7. One night when he is outside in a village square, he looks into the sky and sees how the thick clouds keep trying to cover the moon and yet the moon reappears again and again to shine all night long. He thinks that in some way, his journey is like that of the moon although he has even more clouds coming his way to make his spirit dull.

8. They continue walking now mostly at night. It feels as if they are walking with the moon. It follows them behind the clouds and waits for them at the end of dark forests. However, its brightness becomes dull as the nights pass and the shooting stars seem to be the moon weeping. It is as if the sky is telling them a story as the stars fell, violently colliding with each other while the moon hid behind the clouds to avoid seeing what is happening.

9. To Ishmael, it is as if the forest has taken on a life of its own, as if it has trapped the injured souls that have departed from the dead. The branches of the tress look as if they are holding hands and bowing in prayer. This is metaphor for how people should behave when confronted with the dead.

10. Ishmael has a different kind of nightmare. This time, it begins with him and his brother, Junior, swimming at Mattru Jong and diving for oysters. They race home with the oysters, but there is no one there. When he turns to ask Junior whatís going on, Junior has disappeared as well. Then, he is suddenly encircled by faceless people who begin to shoot, stab, and slice each otherís throats. He begins to cry as blood fills the room. Then, he goes outside and finds all of his family standing there. They donít seem to notice that he is covered with blood. The rain comes and when the family goes inside, he stays in the rain to wash off the blood. This time, when he turns around, the house is gone as well. This is a metaphor for the truth: Ishmael will never see his family again.


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