Study Guide

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier The Moon

By Ishmael Beah

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The Moon

The moon has always fascinated people. It just sits up there shining in the night sky, being all mysterious. Well, maybe not all that mysterious since Neil Armstrong walked on it, but still awesome. Ishmael has a special relationship with the moon. It starts with this story his grandmother tells him:

"We must strive to be like the moon." An old man in Kabati repeated this sentence often to people who walked past his house on their way to the river to fetch water, to hunt, to tap palm wine; and to their farms. I remember asking my grandmother what the old man meant. She explained that the adage served to remind people to always be on their best behavior and to be good to others. She said that people complain when there is too much sun and it gets unbearably hot, and also when it rains too much or when it is cold. But she said, no one grumbles when the moon shines. Everyone becomes happy and appreciates the moon in their own special way. Children watch their shadows and play in its light, people gather at the square to tell stories and dance through the night. A lot of happy things happen when the moon shines. These are some of the reasons why we should want to be like the moon. (1.42)

For Ishmael and his family, the moon is a symbol of goodness and joy. The moon shines a light in the darkness (something Ishmael really needs at times). And good things can happen by the moonlight. Seriously, when was the last time you ever heard someone complain about the moon? It's a pretty cool celestial object.

That's why it makes sense that the moon follows Ishmael on his journey. Sometimes he sees it hiding from the horrible things going on down here on Earth (we don't blame it). Other times the moon shines bright to help Ishmael see things at night. The moon is constantly looking over Ishmael's shoulder reminding him of his life before the war and his connection to the people he loves.

Even after the war, whenever Ishmael sees the moon, he remembers the happier times of his childhood. Since a good part of his childhood was spent killing people, the fact that he can think of better times when he looks at the moon is really important. The moon is like a bridge to Ishmael's past, to his family and—probably—his religion, since Ishmael is Muslim and the moon also has a special place in Islamic tradition.

Nice job, moon. Way to brighten up even the darkest of nights.

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