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

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Another important element is irony - when something happens, or is seen, or is heard that we may know, but the characters do not, or that appears opposite of what is expected. Some examples of irony include:

1. She keeps asking the boys all kinds of questions about their father and their eating habits and everything that a grandmother would worry about. They put her off and refuse to spend the night. Ironically, she waves them off, as they start off again, with her right hand, a sign of good luck.

2. He remembers now an adult saying about the war is presently running from is another war of independence, this time a liberation of the people from a corrupt government. However, Ishmael wonders what kind of liberation movement shoots innocent civilians and children.

3. They farm at Kamator for three months, and Ishmael never gets used to it. The sad thing about all the hard labor is that the rebels eventually did come, and their hard work all went to ruin. What is even sadder is that it is during this attack that Ishmael and his friends are separated and Ishmael never sees his older brother again.

4. He has lost everything, and he remembers when he and his family had first moved to Mogbwemo. His father had invited all the neighbors over to a ceremony to bless their new house. He stood up during the ceremony and said that he prayed to the gods and ancestors that his family will always be together. Now, they are all gone.

5. Ishmael remembers his grandmother telling him all about his name giving ceremony. When she would relate how his father held him in the air for the entire village to see, he would think about how he had become a member of the community and was owned and cared for by all. Now he is a member of nothing.

6. Just as Ishmael starts down the hill to the village where he has been told he can find his family, gunshots ring out with dogs barking and people screaming. Ironically, when he finally gets there, they are all dead and he just missed them.

7. If they hadn’t stopped to rest on the hill and carry his bananas, Ishmael might have seen his family and died with them.

8. The guns are too heavy for the little boys, ages seven and eleven, so the soldiers bring out stools that they can prop up their guns for target practice.

9. One boy wears a Tupac Shakur tee shirt with blood soaking his hair. The shirt says, “All eyes on me.” Ironically, he dies as violently as Tupac did.

10. Ishmael is also looking forward to seeing the lieutenant who might find some time to talk about Shakespeare. Ironically, even in the midst of war, there is room for classic literature.

11. Ironically, they needed the violence to cheer them after a whole day of boring traveling and contemplation about why their superiors had let them go.

12. Ironically, Esther’s explanation for saying she’s not sure about befriending Ishmael is based on whether she will be able to trust him.

13. The somber eyes of the rebels as they realized they were going to die just irritated Ishmael. Ironically, he felt none of the sympathy he should have.

14. Their lives are tainted by their experiences, but Ishmael is confident that nothing could get any worse than it has been and that makes him smile. He doesn’t know that the war will eventually come to Freetown.

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