Uncovering The True Fiction Behind Ishmael Beah’s Recount of His Life Story
What settles the difference between nonfiction and fiction? The specifics. In a nonfiction novel, the author is recounting on purely true events. However, in a fictional text, the author has a wide range of possibilities and can be very subjective. The specifics can be used to recount one’s life in a day or every minute. In the novel, A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah, the author retells his story from the beginning of his life till now. He recounts the life story of a young man who grew up in Sierra Leone with fearlessness and precision. With Ishmael Beah’s life experiences that are based on real facts, I can conclude that Ishmael Beah and his novel are nonfictional. This can be seen through; his loss of identity, the politics in 1997, and of course his experience.
Ishmael Beah, the author of this remarkable novel, overly ensured his audience of how the Sierra Leone army was the reason why he lost his identity. Beah was captured at the age of thirteen and was forced to use a gun. Try to imagine for yourself. A thirteen-year-old boy has to turn into a murderer. At his age, he was only worried about his studies and being able to enjoy life to the fullest. For almost three full years, Ishmael Beah had to fight in the Sierra Leone war as a child soldier. An example of this from the novel is when Ishmael states “I was quiet for a bit, as I didn’t know what to say and also didn’t trust anyone at this point in my life. I had learned to survive and take care of myself. I had done this for most of my short life with no one to trust, and frankly, I liked being alone, since it made surviving easier.” (153). Once Ishmael Beah was taken by the Sierra Leone army, he was treated like dirt. Surrounded by the people who were the reason why he lost his family and how he had to survive for himself. He had lost his identity at a very young age until Unicef saved him. From Ishmael Beah’s loss of identity, it proves that this novel is nonfictional.
The politics in Sierra Leone 1997, wasn’t considered the most stable supporting government for their country. In the Sierra Leone civil war, there were many reports of government forces and rebel troops torturing civilians to unspeakable events, such as cutting off limbs, ears and tongues. All of this was to help set a political/global campaign diamond mines in conflicted areas. An example of this from a credible article is “A Sierra Leone paramilitary commander, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Human Rights Watch that suspected RUF members had been taken to a government-allied paramilitary base in Freetown on the 8th of May. According to the commander, the five men were severely tortured and beaten, and the commander personally saw that their ears had been cut off. When the commander returned later that day, he was informed that the five had been taken away and he believed they had been executed.” (Human Rights Watch). Also in the novel, it states “it was the beginning of ‘rotten politics’ as my father put it. I had heard from the adults that this was a revolutionary war, the liberation of the people from a corrupt government. But what kind of liberation movement shoots innocent civilians, children, and that little girl?”(87). This report of the government at the time and the quotation of Ishmael Beah speaking in his novel has shown to prove that what happened in A Long Way Gone was a fact. That their government would turn against them to win a global campaign. All of these facts are proof of why this novel is nonfictional.
Ishmael Beah’s experiences are known to all, his struggle for survival and self reestablishment can not be compared to anyone else. His compelling novel became a movement for human rights spokesperson. However, his ‘specific’ experiences were the reason why his story was so heart moving. An example of one of his experiences is “I concluded to myself that if I were the hunter, I would shoot the monkey so that it would no longer have the chance to put other hunters in the same predicament.” (218). During this period in the novel, Beah had escaped and his ‘solution’ was for peace. This wish had stopped coming true five years later. Then Beah had finally learned why he should put a high value on peace: Human Rights is nothing without it. This may seem like a small example of one of his experiences growing up, however, it is a stepping stone for what had such an impact on his life as a child soldier.
In closing, A Long Way Gone is written with a certain purpose of being a recount of Ishmael Beah’s life story. Some may describe him as a monster, but others as a victim. However, the young man’s attitude has changed from weapon conflicts to his truthful and horrifying life story. Ishmael Beah wrote with truthful certainty, and it is clear how valid his statements are to the number of specifics he provided. Whether he was talking about his loss of identity, the brutal politics at the time or his own life experiences every passage stood out screaming the truth. There is easily a fine line that separates nonfiction from fiction, Beah’s recount is an example of one of the worlds greatest nonfiction novel known to mankind.
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