Study Guide

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier What's Up With the Title?

By Ishmael Beah

What's Up With the Title?

The title of this book—A Long Way Gone—comes from a line in chapter 9:

I began to worry, because last time I had found someone in the village who had gone to school with us and saved us. This time we were a long way from Mattru Jong. A long way gone. (9.38)

Ishmael is talking about the distance the boys have travelled, but it's also clear he's got their emotional journey in mind, too. Ishmael started out with a family who loved him and taught him right from wrong; he winds up addicted to drugs and killing people as a member of the army. In a sense, he's a long way gone from the happy and secure life he once had.

But there's a light at the end of the tunnel. Ishmael's story doesn't stop there. He's able to reclaim some of that love and goodness in his life after he's rehabilitated. By the end of the book, Ishmael has gone on another long journey to become the man he once knew he could be.

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