Alex Kotlowitz is a reporter, and as such, he creates a narrative that is much like reading a newspaper. His prose is sparse and to the point without much philosophizing. He leaves most conclusions about what he presents to the reader. And yet he appeals to our heart with his presentation and expresses empathy in his narration.


The rising action begins with the boys' trip to the railroad tracks, which leaves a lasting impression on Pharoah and ends with Lafeyette's arrest for vandalizing a car.


The falling action can be found in the Epilogue where the author tells the fates of all the important characters at the point when he leaves them in 1989.


The point of view is third person omniscient. The author has total control of the narrative and tells it, with the exception of the Preface and the Epilogue, as if he is god-like. In the Preface and the Epilogue, he uses first person to explain why he wrote the book and the outcomes for the characters.



There are several other literary devices that pop up at various times in the story. One is foreshadowing which frequently presents clues of something that will happen later in the novel. Some examples of foreshadowing include:

1. LaJoe assertion that you can smell the coming of death in the fetid pools of water, the garbage, or rotting cat carcasses foreshadows Bird Leg's murder.

2. Pharoah had good dreams and his stutter is almost gone, two signs that he will probably do well in the spelling bee.

3. Bad weather, his insistence in going outside, and his false arrest foreshadow Craig Davis' death.


One of the most important elements to note 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. It is ironic that Henry Horner Homes sit so close to downtown Chicago that all the important white people and tourists could watch from the Sears Tower as Lafeyette ducks gunfire on his birthday.

2. Lafeyette cautions Pharoah about Rickey who could get him in trouble, but in the end, Lafeyette begins to hang out with Rickey himself.

3. It's ironic that the Chicago school system labels children who drop out of school before the age of sixteen as lost rather than a dropout. They have used a word that profoundly describes most of the children in the projects.

4. It's ironic that Urica Winder, eight years old, had the courage to stand up in court and testify against her attackers when most adults were too afraid.

5. It's ironic that Lafeyette poses in the picture of the Four Corner Hustlers when he doesn't really want to be there.

6. Pharaoh becomes obsessed with politics, which is ironic given that politicians have mostly ignored his people trapped in the projects.

7. One of the few times that Lafeyette smiles after Craig and Scooter's deaths comes when he makes a sad joke about rapists taking refuge in liquor stores.

8. It's ironic that Terence is sentenced on the same day Richard J. Daly is elected mayor of Chicago. He has become a lost child, and the politicians are silent.

9. Pharoah visits Dawn who is feeling despair and hopelessness, because she hasn't found a job. In the midst of these feelings, he still leaves, saying, Have a nice day!

10. After her children earn eight ribbons at the final-day assembly, LaJoe wears them on her shirt, and she looks like decorated war hero. This is ironic given that the family lives every day in a war zone.

11. It's ironic that on the day Lafeyette goes to court, Rickey, the friend they were all wary of, is just completing a two-week stay in detention for a smash-and-grab.

Cite this page:

Clapsaddle, Diane. "TheBestNotes on A Long Way Gone".