In the Book a Long Way Gone a Boy is Going through a Civil War

In the book A Long Way Gone a boy named Ishmael Beah is going through a civil war in Sierra Leone. He is faced with death, hunger and loneliness. In the beginning of the book he is separated from his family and is forced to leave his hometown. He leaves with his older brother and a few friends. They walk for days without finding shelter or even any food. His brother and all of the friends that he was with end up getting captured by the rebels and separated, Ishmael never sees them again. He becomes a child soldier and fights against the rebels. In the book he says “Whenever I turned on the tap water, all I could see was blood gushing out. I would stare at it until it looked like water before drinking it or taking a shower” (Beah 145). This is because he has post traumatic stress disorder. At a young age he has been traumatized by war and will always remember the events that happened to him in Sierra Leone. He is killing people, doing drugs and knows nothing else than war. These are the conflicts that Ishmael Beah has been through as a child soldier in Sierra Leone.

Sierra Leone is one of the top ten diamond producing nations. The Diamonds are sold during the civil war so that they can buy weapons. Anyone with a shovel and a sieve can find them. The civil war started because the revolutionary united front (RUF) attacked the Sierra Leone government, that broke out into a civil war that lasted 11 years. During the first year RUF took over the eastern and southern part of the country that were rich with diamonds (Maconachie). This is why Ishmael was kicked out of his village. The majority of people living there are in extreme poverty. Ishmael lived in poverty before the rebel attacked, he lived in a small town called Matru Jong with a population of only 7,647 people. In Sierra Leone rebel camps bring refugees to recruit child soldiers, the rest of them are murdered and torture. In the book Ishmael says “everything felt awkwardly brutal. Evened the air seemed to want to attack me and break my neck” (Beah 49). He felt lonely and doesn’t know how to feel because his family is dead and he has seen horrible things happen to his friends.

This is not only in Sierra Leone it is also happening in South Sudan. In South Sudan 2013, a civil war broke out. There have been over 2.47 million refugees that have been displaced over the course of only 5 years (“Child Soldiers”). Many of these families are kicked out of their homes and have nowhere to go. There are 50,000 recorded deaths but could be as many as 383,000 deaths. Sixty-five percent of the refugees are under the age of 18. Violence is happening all over the world and in the book Ishmael says “I missed my squad and I needed more violence” (beach 140). Ishmael is craving violence and wants to kill people. He has been in war so long that it has become the new normal. There are as many as 300,000 child soldiers worldwide. Wars are happening all over the world, making innocent citizens hungry, and homeless.

In 2017 there were 347 mass shootings. Including the most deadliest mass shooting in United States history, Las vegas. In the book ishmael is faced with conflicts like these. He is constantly walking over dead bodies and meeting people who want to kill him. In the book he is faced with stereotypes. He is with a group of young boys through his entire journey and anyone he comes across, see him as a threat. Ishmael says “Young boys were immediately recruited, and the initials RUF was carved wherever it pleased the rebels, with a hot bayonet” (beah 24). He is saying that because he is a young boy that the rebels would take boys over girls and make the boys work for them. In America we have stereotypes as well and we judge people before we even get to know them, just by how they look. Ishmael is homeless and has nowhere to go. He doesn’t have money for food, and can’t find a shelter. He sleeps in abandoned villages that are covered in dead bodies. In america 554,000 people are homeless each night. The conflicts are similar between Sierra Leone and America but still very different.

We need to make a change and educate people about conflicts that are happening in the world. There are hundreds of donation websites where you can give money to help refugees. First we need to make a change in our community. We can volunteer to help give out dinners to homeless people. Giving a meal to someone can help someone a lot, In the book ishmael says, “That night we were so hungry that we stole people’s food while they slept. It was the only way to get through the night” (beah 29). 815 million people suffer each day from not getting the food they need. World hunger is a huge issue and we can donate money to people in need. We can raise awareness about gun safety so that less casualties happen. We can welcome people from war torn countries and help them settle into America. There is a way to help people who are suffering, if we would all help donate our time and money things could be resolved.

Works Cited

  1. Goodwin, Jan. “Sierra Leone Is No Place To Be Young.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 14 Feb. 1999,
  2. Maconachie, Roy. “How the Wealth from Sierra Leone Diamonds Fails to Enrich Local Communities.” The Conversation, The Conversation, 18 Sept. 2018,
  3. Sesay, Shekou M., and Davidson S.H.W. Nicol. “Sierra Leone.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 21 Sept. 2018,
  4. Winsor, Morgan. “South Sudan Marks 5 Years of Vicious Civil War.” ABC News, ABC News Network, 15 Dec. 2018,
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In the book a long way gone a boy is going through a civil war. (2021, Mar 15). Retrieved August 10, 2022 , from

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