Study Guide

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier Chapter 14

By Ishmael Beah

Chapter 14

  • Ishmael had always had migraines, but they go away as he starts filling up his days with all kinds of soldierly things.
  • The boys spend all of their time either fighting, watching wars movies like Rambo and Commando, and doing drugs. Lots and lots of drugs.
  • Ishmael smokes marijuana, sniffs brown brown (which is cocaine mixed with gunpowder—yikes) and takes more of the white pills.
  • He's pretty much addicted at this point. The drugs make him feel powerful, yet numb. The perfect combination for killing.
  • When the soldiers get close to running out of supplies, they raid rebel camps. They also attack civilian villages looking for recruits and supplies.
  • One day, the soldiers attack a rebel camp and end up tying up the prisoners that they haven't killed. The boys watch as the lieutenant slits a rebel prisoner's throat with a bayonet.
  • The lieutenant tells the civilians in the camp that they are there to protect them. They're not like those filthy rebels who just kill people for no reason. No, not at all.
  • He tells them that Ishmael and his fellow soldiers deserve their thanks and admiration for all they've done.
  • Ishmael feels pretty great about himself. He's someone now. He's got a gun. He's not afraid and he's not running away anymore. He's awesome… at killing.
  • The next morning, the boys practice killing rebel prisoners.
  • Five of them, including Ishmael and Kanei, race to see who can kill the quickest. They're supposed to slit a rebel's throat. Whoever's prisoner dies the quickest wins.
  • Seriously, that is some messed up stuff.
  • Ishmael looks right into his prisoner's eyes, but doesn't feel anything at all. His man dies the quickest, so he gets the gold medal and is promoted to junior lieutenant. We totally would not suggest putting that on your resume.
  • At night, Ishmael can hardly ever sleep. Sometimes he thinks about one of the boys who used to hum at night or the ways the trees around him whisper, but then he fires his gun into the air and the noises go away.
  • You know you're in trouble when your gun comforts you.

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