Analysis of “Long Way Down” by Jason Reynolds

In Jason Reynolds’ anti-gun novel, Long Way Down, written in verse, he explicitly emphasizes the effects of the acts of revenge in Will’s society to evoke the adverse consequences of a gun violence.

Reynolds uses connotation to reveal the grievance of Will after going through the loss of a loved one. When Will sees Shawn crying, his tears also comes “bursting free”. The tears come into the scene as it “burst[ing] free”, as something that is forbidden and was trapped by Will’s follow of the rules. Though the rule clearly states no crying, Will can no longer hold in his grief. Something that burst free is generally unmanageable. Will’s loss of control of his emotions expose his true character. He is innocent and is only a kid. Even though Will tries to take actions that the people he looks up to will do, Reynolds implied how Will’s character is unsuitable to do such a brutal act, kill Rig to revenge.

Jason Reynolds also warns about the rightfulness of killing a person by the use of repetition in portraying the questioning of the revenge in Will’s confession to Shawn. In Will’s explanation, he states that he “knew it was Rig” to “thought it was Rig” and back to “knew it was Rig”. This fluctuation demonstrates the insecure in Will himself and displays the development of doubt in Will’s heart over whether the plan of the revenge is truly and spiritually the right thing for him to follow. If a person “knew” something, this is to be a fact. However, if a person “thought” something, this is only a thought that could be inaccurate. By using the inconsistent words, Reynolds exposes the instability within Will. Throughout the explanation, Will simply wants a reassurance from Shawn that he is doing the right thing. The author triggers the question, should he also blindly pursue the rules that the past generations have pursued that ultimately resulted in the reoccurring of the violence?

The author uses symbols to further explores the possible consequence that will supervene a gun violence. Reynolds uses the cigarettes to symbolize a revenge acted for a died. While everyone else has a cigarette, Shawn’s cigarette was “burning in [Will’s] stomach” and thus fills him with “stinging fire”. Smoking cigarettes can cause major health issues. In this case, the cigarette represents the negative effect of what a person’s death has caused. Will has not yet avenged for Shawn, in other words, he has not yet continued on this chain of violence. When one’s stomach is being burned by “stinging fire”, one suffers from extreme pain. Will, however, does not suffer from the physical pain, but the mental and emotional tortures. He is torn between whether he should continue this endless chain of revenge or remain calm and reconsider the murder. Through Reynolds’ use of representative symbolization, he reflects that an act one takes can conclude in intense outcomes that may affect another’s life miserable.

In the fast-paced novel, by using a variety of poetic devices and figurative languages including connotation, repetition, and symbolism, Jason Reynolds is able to explore the feelings of the broken, warn them about the miseries that may be the aftermath of an impulsive act, and guide them out of the darkness. At the end of the book, the author closes with “you coming?” to affirm that if you choose to do something, you have to be prepared for the consequences of your own actions.