Study Guide

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier Chapter 16

By Ishmael Beah

Chapter 16

  • At the new rehab center, things don't go so well. Ishmael and the other boys really don't like being told what to do by civilians.
  • The boys are all going through drug withdrawal, too. They attack each other and they attack the staff.
  • But every time they hurt a member of the staff, these guys still come back.
  • Ishmael can't understand it. The staff members keep telling them it's not their fault that they're acting so horribly. What?
  • One day, Ishmael smashes out a window with his fist and has to go to the hospital. He accepts treatment from the nurse there who tries to talk to him, but he just rushes away.
  • The next day, Ishmael collapses and is brought back to the hospital. Finally, the nurse injects him with a tranquilizer so he can rest and stay put.
  • Ishmael starts to think a lot about the things he did during his time with the army.
  • He remembers one time when he and his friends attacked a rebel village and ended up killing a whole lot of people and scoring some sweet supplies.
  • The lieutenant nicknamed Ishmael "Green Snake" because he was so good at sneaking up on people and taking them out. Snakes everywhere protested the comparison, we're sure.
  • Eventually, the staff members tell the boys they need to start going to school. They give them school supplies, but the boys burn them. They get more supplies, so they sell them.
  • You can see how these boys' minds have been warped by war.
  • Ishmael, Alhaji, and another boy, named Mambu, use their money to take a trip into Freetown. None of them has ever been to a real city before. Soon, all the others boys start taking bus trips into town, too.
  • Eventually, people stop buying the school supplies from the boys and their money runs out. The staff members tell the boys that they'll take them into Freetown if, and only if, they attend classes every day.
  • So, they do. And they raise a huge ruckus almost every day.
  • But their teacher isn't mad. He keeps telling them it's not their fault. Soon they'll remember how to sit still and learn. These teachers have a lot of patience.
  • This just makes Ishmael and the other boys angry. Everyone is still having flashbacks to their days in the war, including Ishmael.
  • He remembers the one time he and some of his fellow soldiers took over a rebel camp. They fought for days and finally won the base and the supplies.
  • At the end of the fighting, they decided not to execute the few remaining rebel prisoners with guns. Instead the made the men dig their own graves and then buried them alive.
  • That night, Ishmael wanders out onto the soccer field and sleeps. In the morning, one of the staff members tells him that it's not his fault and that he's gonna make it.
  • This is going to be an uphill battle for sure.

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