The Lack of Compassion and the Consequences of Forgiveness in Lord of the Flies and A Long Way Gone
Compassion through Rehabilitation
The boys stuck on the island in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies and Ishmael Beah himself in his book A Long Way Gone represent individuals that once had humanity, but got their humanity taken away due to disastrous circumstances. In Lord of the Flies, the boys have issues on who is in charge. Ralph, was the voted upon leader of the boys, but Jack does not share the same views as Raph, thus they end up fighting. Jack’s described by Golding as, “His face was crumpled and freckled, and ugly without silliness. Out of this face stared two light blue eyes, frustrated now, and turning, or ready to turn, to anger” (20). Piggy tries his best to keep everything set and in order, so everything can be peaceful and so that the “little uns” don’t get frightened. In A Long Way Gone, Ishmael Beah becomes dehumanized from joining the army to avenge the deaths of his family. Beah, after being severely affected by the horrors of the war, goes back to his old compassionate self after being rehabilitated at the Benin Home; thus challenging Golding’s hypothesis which states: evil exerts a stronger pull on human beings than good. Ishmael Beah’s regained compassion allows him to tell others about the happenings in Sierra Leone, contradicting the death of rules and order in Golding’s Lord of the Flies as well as the lack of humanity displayed in Ishmael’s war years.
The boys from Lord of the Flies demonstrate their lack of compassion over time they by killing their only means of rules and order. Toward the end of the novel, when Jack had taken their only means of a signal fire, Piggy’s glasses, Piggy and Ralph and two other “big uns” go to ask for his glasses.  Jack d isagrees; resulting in Ralph and Jack quarrelling; Piggy, on the other hand, holds the conch in his hand trying to stop Ralph and Jack. At the same time, Roger leaned his body weight against the lever which contained the rock. The narrator describes how “the monstrous red thing bounded” :
The rock struck Piggy a glancing blow from chin to knee; the conch exploded into a thousand white fragments and ceased to exist. Piggy, saying nothing, with no time for even a grunt, traveled through the air sideways from the rock, turning over as he went […] Piggy fell forty feet and landed on his back across the square red rock in the sea. His head opened and stuff came out and turned red. Piggy’s arms and legs twitched a little bit, like a pig’s after it has been killed. Then the sea breathed again in a long, slow sigh, the water boiled white and pink over the rock; and when it went, sucking back again, the bo dy of Piggy was gone. (Golding 181)
Golding symbolizes the death of rules and order when he described the conch “exploding into a thousand pieces,” the narrator is pointing out how the boys tarnished their only forms of keeping everything in order: the conch, and Piggy. The conch was used to assemble all the boys attention in order to come to mutual understanding. Additionally, when Golding narrates, “the body of Piggy was gone,” it resembles the death of reason as well as rules and order. Golding goes on narrating, “Piggy’s arms and legs twitched a little bit, like a pig’s after it has been killed,” portraying Piggy’s unpopularity among the boys. Golding restates the boys lack of respect for Piggy thorough symbolism– “sucking back again, the body of Piggy was gone” – representing how invaluable Piggy was to the boys, when he was the person that held on to his humanity and tried to make the boys do the same. Piggy has been trying to make the rival groups of boys get along with the conch, but now that Piggy and the conch have been killed off, laws cease to exist; leaving the boys with no better reason to kill.
Ishmael Beah in his book A Long Way Gone, turned his goals of avenging the death of his family into his daily reality of taking revenge on innocent individuals without reason. When Ishmael got recruited into the army he was frightened and nervous, but after his first battle with the “enemy”, the RUF, he felt comfortable holding his AK-47, and adjusted to the life of taking brown brown to not feel guilty for the death of innocents. Ishmael recollects how his heartless self would be on a daily basis :
My squad was my family, my gun was my provider and protector, and my rule was to kill or be killed. The extent of my thoughts didn’t go much beyond that. We had been fighting for two years, and killing had become a daily activity. I felt no pity for anyone. My childhood had gone by without my knowing, and it seemed as if my heart had frozen. I knew that day and night came and went because of the presence of the moon and sun, but I had no idea whether it was a Sunday or a Friday . (126)
Ishmael shares his mantra would be “kill or be killed,” representing his state of dehumanization at the time. In addition, Being a child soldier changed Ishmael’s mental state– “The extent of my thoughts didn’t go much beyond that” – proving he does not put thought into what he is doing. Ishmael is taking part in killing fearing all the guilt he would have to go through if he were to stop and think about what he had done. Ishmael goes on saying, “killing had become a daily activity. I felt no pity for anyone,” showing how Ishmael was so used to this daily routine that he didn’t want to stop and think because of all the risks that come along with it. Ishmael knew deep down that the people he was killing had loved ones who would be as sad as he was when his parents and brother had died. However, if he did think that who he was killing were told to avenge the death of their family, just like himself; he would have to face all the pain of guilt, loneliness, and betrayal as a result. Ishmael’s “heart had frozen” and he had “no idea whether it was a Sunday or a Friday ,” emphasizing how Ishmael shut down part of his mind and emotions to even remember the date so he would not have to face the guilt. Ishmael was lacking the reason of thinking along with the boys in Lord of the Flies because they are both not willing to face the consequences of their actions to have compassion for humankind again.
Ishmael Beah in A Long Way Gone recognizes that the challenging situations he was placed in were not his fault, allowing him to have perseverance and hope for the future. Ishmael was given the opportunity to go to the UN Economic and Social Council in New York to share his experiences as a child soldier. At New York, Ishmael sees that life in New York was not the way he thought it was. At first he decided that he would not want to live in a country that was cold all the time, but after he started hearing people’s stories from different parts of the world he was intrigued, and admired them for their perseverance in challenging situations. Ishmael described how he regained his compassion and learned to have hope:
I am from Sierra Leone, and the problem that is affecting us children is the war that forces us to run away from our homes, lose our families, and aimlessly roam the forests. As a result, we get involved in the conflict as soldiers, carriers of loads, and in many other difficult tasks. All this is because of starvation, the loss of our families, and the need to feel safe and be a part of something when all else has broken down. I joined the army really because of the loss of my family and starvation. I wanted to avenge the deaths of my family. I also had to get some food to survive, and the only way to do that was to be part of the army. It was not easy being a soldier, but we just had to do it. I have been rehabilitated now, so don’t be afraid of me. I am not a soldier anymore; I am a child. We are all brothers and sisters. What I have learned from my experiences is that revenge is not good. I joined the army to avenge the deaths of my family and to survive, but I’ve come to learn that if I am going to take revenge, in that process I will kill another person whose family will want revenge; then revenge and revenge and revenge will never come to an end. (199)
Ishmael says “We get involved in conflict”, Ishmael’s demonstrating his understanding of forgiveness. Esther, the nurse that would talk to him at the Benin Home, his uncle, and the others who work at the Benin Home constantly told Ishmael that it was not his fault, Ishmael was able to go through the path of forgiving himself. Further on, Ishmael explained his innocence, “All this is because of starvation, the loss of our families, and the need to feel safe and be a part of something when all else has broken down,” further showing that he forgave himself. In Addition, Ishmael proves he found himself: “I am not a soldier anymore; I am a child,” admitting that while he was in the army he considered himself a soldier. Before the war, he considered himself a child because he had not gone through the horrid challenges of war. When Ishmael was forced to face these adult challenges at a young age, but went through the risks of forgiving himself, demonstrate his rehabilitation has allowed him to regain some of his childhood back and thus become the compassionate person he used to be. When Ishmael narrates, “revenge and revenge will never come to an end,” now Ishmael has completely understood the cycle of revenge and learned a major life’s lesson. Ishmael now knows better than to get revenge because of his experience as a child soldier; this knowledge will help him become a be the better person when dealing with relationships in his life. Ishmael’s speech is significant because it depicts how Ishmael has changed from his stay at the Benin Home. Furthermore, Ishmael’s regained compassion from his rehabilitation at the Benin Home made him want to share his story to others arounds the world; a sheer act of compassion. Ishmael Beah proves that it is possible to regain humanity after living through traumatizing moments, contradicting Golding’s hypothesis.
While Lord of the Flies and A Long Way Gone show individuals lacking reason blindly in order to face the risky consequences of forgiveness. Lord of the Flies does not have an aftermath unlike A Long Way Gone where a dehumanized Ishmael becomes rehabilitated. Ishmael demonstrates his understanding of revenge and understands to forgive himself in order to start the rehabilitation process. The lack of humanity from the boys in Lord of the Flies, and Ishmael’s horrors committed as a child soldier is outweighed by Ishmael’s moving speech in New York, and Golding hypothesis is contradicted because their is definitive proof of real life situations. Ishmael changes himself from the self-forgiveness and hope he gains from the people surrounding him. In Lord of the Flies, the boys killed the only person who displayed compassion and that left them with no reason to kill the enemy. In A Long Way Gone, we see Ishmael traveling across the country to alarm others about child soldiers. We are left to believe that the compassion in A Long Way Gone is more impactful because Golding’s form of compassion died.
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