Review of the theme of losing innocence as depicted in the Biography of Ishmael Beah, A Long Way to Go

June 7, 2021 by Essay Writer

The Loss of Innocence of a Child

Many children in the world have encountered or are now encountering internal conflicts within their region that can cause much harm to not only their physical bodies but also to their emotional well-being. In Ishmael Beah’s illuminating memoir, A Long Way Gone, Beah explores the idea that the atrocities in the world can affect a child’s life traumatically by causing a loss of innocence within the child, and Beah does this through his use of imagery, flashbacks and characterization.

The atrocities in the world can affect a child’s life by causing a loss of innocence within the child. Unfortunately, a child from a certain part of the world, like Beah, can struggle with meeting with the conflict that is happening within the child’s country face-to-face, and that conflict can include either a Civil War or even a Revolution against their own government. As a child, Beah came face-to-face with the Sierra Leone Civil War. Sierra Leone is his birthplace. In his younger age, it was hard for him to understand things and his “emotions were in disarray” (86). It’s difficult in the beginning of a war, like the Sierra Leone Civil War, for a child to fully understand what is even going at all. Usually a child around Beah’s age is hanging around his home, helping his parents, and living the life of a student through school participation, so to see dead people that the child may or may not know on the ground can surely be overwhelming, and he may react in ways just like Beah did. The different types of reactions are something to expect from a child with such innocence, and because of this loss of it, most children grow up to become evil or mentally insane, and some don’t bother to get rehabilitated. It’s very upsetting, but it’s true.

Beah’s use of imagery throughout the memoir helps illustrate to the reader the everyday struggles that a child striving to survive the Sierra Leone Civil War would’ve had to face. Many of these struggles includes the worst kinds of all: thinking, dreaming, imagining. Countless times, from childhood to today, “[through his] mind’s eye [he] would see sparks of flame, flashes of scenes [he] had witnessed, and the agonizing voices of children and women would come alive in [his] head. [He] cried quietly as [his] head beat like the clapper of a bell. Sometimes after the migraine had stopped, [he] was able to fall asleep briefly, only to be woken by nightmares” (103). It’s unfortunate that the child who witnesses war doesn’t get the chance to keep the innocent dreams that he wants to remember within his head and is left to have his head filled with the types previously mentioned.

When dealing with times of war, a child will always look for things to help get reality off the child’s mind. If the child’s family died, then the child will always try to keep the happy memories of them all spending time together within the realms of his mind, or the child would probably not want to think about family at all. The child would envy another child who still had a family to run to because he had no one to run to and had to do everything for himself and by himself. Sometimes these memories would be of times where the child took advantage of a day that he wishes would just happen over and over again now that he can’t see his loved ones anymore. For example, when Beah’s grandmother first told him about being like the moon, he didn’t really try to understand what she meant until later on, but “[w]henever [Beah] get[s] the chance to observe the moon now, [he would] still see those same images [he] saw when [he] was six, and it pleases [him] to know that that part of [his] childhood is still embedded in [him]” (17). His innocence was also lost a bit more when “[Gasemu’s] arms were cold. His body was still sweating and he continued bleeding. [Beah] didn’t say a word to… [he] … knew what had happened” (98). Usually, if this were to happen, a child wouldn’t know what to do but sob. This happened initially when Saidu died, and “all [he] could do was sob.”

Beah would use many flashbacks throughout the whole memoir to tell his story. He used flashbacks that relaxed him, tensed him, and chilled him.

Beah’s character and morals changed a lot throughout his memoir. Beah even admitted that “[his] innocence had been replaced by fear and [he] had become [a monster]” (55).

When looking at history and listening to the stories that child soldiers tell people are honestly amazing. It’s amazing that one can learn from them how they survived and why they never gave up. One would think that it just makes an American child look like a brat compared to these child soldiers, and it’s true. Disney has to dumb down Grimm stories like Snow White and Rapunzel just so that kids won’t be afraid. America has so many laws put together to protect this and that for children of America… but what about the kids who don’t have it so easy? What about their innocence? Because of them having to fight and survive war within their own region, they won’t ever get to have an innocent life again.

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