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Ishmael is a wonderful young man who becomes a victim of a devastating civil war in Sierra Leone. Like most other civilians, he is a victim of a terror campaign on the part of both sides of the war. Millions of civilians die in this conflict and in that way, Ishmael is lucky, because he lives. However, he comes out of the experience as a boy soldier badly damaged. He has lost his family to the rebel atrocities just before he has the chance to be reunited. He sees friends and comrades die the most horrible deaths before his eyes, he lives in horrible conditions day in and day out, and most of the time, he sees little hope that his existence will ever change.
Fortunately, he is taken away to a rehabilitation center by UNICEF staffers
who work with him relentlessly to help him find the true child he left
behind. Of course, it is his own inner desire to be something more, to
overcome the barriers placed in front of him that ultimately means the
difference between returning to the war and finding a new home in New
York City. He then uses his inner strength to finish his education and
go to work at the UN as an advocate for other children forced to face
the horrors of war.
She is the young nurse who works at Benin House where Ishmael enters
rehabilitation. She sees something worth saving in all the boys who come
there, but she sees something even more in Ishmael. She gradually works
on him to become her friend and trust again. She recognizes that saving
him may be through his beloved rap music and uses that to pull out his lost memories of life before the war. She shows him he can
be successful in finding a new life and cheers him on, listens to him, and loves him when he needs it most.
Although he is a war comrade, he becomes Ishmael’s family while they
experience the horrors of the civil war together. He thinks of himself as Rambo and fights in imitation of this character, which may be why
he survives like Ishmael. IN the course of their experiences, they become very close and they watch each
other’s backs throughout all their battles. When Ishmael finally leaves for his uncle’s home, it is Alhaji who
embraces him instead of just shaking his hand. This memory will sustain Ishmael later, because he never sees
this great friend again.
Although Ishmael never met his father’s brother; the man never hesitates
when Ishmael needs a home after Benin House to open his door to his young
nephew. He is always smiling and laughing, and he and his family offer
more than just a roof over Ishmael’s head. They offer emotional sustenance
that Ishmael sorely needs. They call him their son from the beginning and encourage him to do what makes him feel safe and
wanted. IN the end, when Uncle Tommy dies for lack of medical help, Ishmael weeps by his grave all day,
talking quietly to the man who had come to mean to much to him.
Even though he is almost an evil character, this man had an obvious
impact on Ishmael’s life. He motivated him to fight the rebels, and through his own bloodthirsty example, he showed the boys how to
survive. He also had a softer side: he loved to read Shakespeare and discuss the plays with Ishmael who had
memorized long speeches from the Bard’s works. This is the side that Ishmael most appreciates and never
forgets in spite of the horrors that also define the man.
This is a nonfiction work. As such the story is described in a largely
chronological and normal order. The narrative opens with Ishmael in high school in the United States speaking to fellow students who really want
him to relate his experiences in war. He tells them he might do that someday, but for now, he keeps that time to
himself. The narration then goes on to relate Ishmael’s experiences as a boy soldier in twenty-one chapters
followed by a chronology of the history of Sierra Leone, showing the end of the civil war and the arrest of
former president Charles Taylor for war crimes.
Cite this page:
Clapsaddle, Diane. "TheBestNotes on A Long Way Gone".
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