Children who become a part of an army are a crucial problem in the modern world. The book A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier written by Ishmael Beah is the autobiography of the author, who was one of the soldiers in Sierra Leone during the internal war. The story fascinates and terrifies the reader, but it does not leave anyone indifferent. The purpose of this paper is to describe the plot of the book compared to the situation in reality and provide a personal point of view on the problem of children who become soldiers.
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The book “A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier” tells the story of a boy who lives in a small country in Africa with his family (Beah 16). It begins with a description of the lifestyle of Ishmael, who has an older brother, Junior, and a friend, Alhaji. They decide to travel to another village to take part in a contest; they sing rap songs (Beah 7). Boys did not tell about their departure to their family members. When they decide to go back home, they find out that the RUF attacked their village (Beah 59). Ishmael wants to find his family, but that becomes a challenging mission. At some moment, he is separated from his friends and is alone. From a woman from his village, the poor boy learns that the RUF attacked the area where his family was. Ishmael goes to another village, which is controlled by the army. His life as a child soldier begins, and from that point, the most horrible part of the book begins.
Ishmael gets the rank of a junior lieutenant for his violent tendencies and cruel nature. He begins to use drugs and to take part in real military action. The boy becomes fully engaged in this process and lives the life of a soldier. It is possible to assume that a person who took part in the war changes forever. The cruelty and, at the same time, the futility of what is happening negatively impacts the human mind. Being surrounded by violence, one has to adapt to their circumstances. The only way to survive in this situation is to follow all the required rules and orders. It is essential to keep in mind that the main hero of the book was only a teenager. He could not understand the situation to the full extent. The environment had a significant impact on the boy, who tried to save his life by all means.
People always want to protect children; that is how evolution works. It does not matter if this little child is a mathematician or a murderer. Looking at a teenager, officers remember that this little human is someone’s daughter or son. It is much harder to torture or kill them because they all look so innocent. That is why child soldiers play such an important role in the civil wars. It sounds cynical, but that is based on the main principles of psychology. This is the reason why men from UNICEF saved Ishmael and his friends from the army. One of the main motives is absolutely emotional – adults feel sorry for the boys. Another reason is more logical – young mindsets are not fully established, and there is a chance to help teenagers to be socialized and to live an ordinary life. Saving children from the violence of the army means giving them an opportunity for a happy living.
Rehabilitation is the most critical period for Ishmael and his friends. It is the moment where they decide if they want to be a part of society and change their life. The example of friendship between Ishmael and Esther illustrates the importance of social connection during a severe time for a teenager. Without the nurse, the destiny of Ishmael might have been very different. The process of rehabilitation shows that even the most violent children need some support and faith for a complete change. They cannot analyze what they are doing and why they are used by the army. They are not criminals; they are children who do not have an example of a true role model to understand what is right and what is wrong. The development and the growth of the child depend significantly on his environment during this period; that is why it is incorrect to judge child soldiers by their deeds during the war.
In conclusion, it is important to mention that the example of Ishmael Beah is unique and that many other children are still suffering from the violence of the army in their own countries. Children do not have a choice whether to participate in military actions or not. The use of child soldiers is so efficient because of the fact that people feel sorry for them. However, children are only a tool in the hands of the military commanders. The example of Ishmael Beah described in his book A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier shows that every child has a chance for a happy life despite his past.
Beah, Ishmael. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. Sarah Crichton Books, 2008.
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