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

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A Long Way Gone: Literary Analysis by Ishmael Beah

SYMBOLISM / MOTIFS / METAPHORS / IMAGERY / SYMBOLS

These are examples of SYMBOLISM:

1. The physical presence of people and their spirits symbolize the life of a town for Ishmael.

2. If captured, they will be branded and recruited into the rebel forces. Whatís worse, the brand will mark them to government soldiers as the enemy, and they will open fire and kill them immediately. The brand symbolizes the viciousness of the rebels.

3. Young people are extremely rude and disrespectful to an older man, and Ishmael is appalled, because he has grown up in a culture where good behavior is demanded of everyone and young people never disrespect their elders. This symbolizes the breakdown of the country.

4. When they are walking during the day, a crow suddenly just falls out of the sky. They quickly pick it up and prepare to cook it even though they fear it is a curse or a sign of bad luck.


5. Kanei even stretches his hands high as if trying to catch the sun. This symbolizes his desire for heaven to bring him his family and happiness.

6. Ishmael hears a baby crying uncontrollably as they leave as if he knows what lies ahead of them. This symbolizes the coming danger.

7. Then, everyone else in the family hugs him, and his aunt makes him a chicken dish for supper. This is a great honor, because chicken is only served on special occasions. The chicken symbolizes the familyís love and acceptance of Ishmael as their son and brother.

8. In the Embassy compound in Guinea, beside Ishmael sits a mother whispering a story to her children, and Ishmael falls asleep with the memory of the stories his own mother had told him as a child.


These are examples of IMAGERY:

1. This van is followed by a continuous stream of wounded, crying people, including a woman who carries her dead baby on her back. They child had been shot dead as she fled from the rebels. The woman stops and rocks her baby, in too much shock to even weep. The babyís body has so many bullets that they are protruding from its body and it is clear to Ishmael, by the eyes of the baby, that all has been lost.

2. 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.

3. The six friends return to the thick forest where they can see the thick smoke from all the villages that have been set on fire, hanging above the swaying trees.

4. The iman refuses to leave in the middle of a prayer and the rebels find him, bind his hands and feet, and burn him to death, because he refuses to tell them where the people are hiding. His body is left to rot in the square.

5. He then goes on to describe what the rebels have been doing: cutting off heads in front of family members, burning entire villages along with their inhabitants, forcing sons to have sex with their own mothers, hacking newborn babies in half because they cry too much, and cutting open the bellies of pregnant women and killing the children. He says the rebels have lost everything that makes them human and it is now time to make a stand against them.

6. 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.

7. Ishmael 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.

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.

9. 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.


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