Study Guide

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier Chapter 17

By Ishmael Beah

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Chapter 17

  • A few months later, the nurse that Ishmael saw at the hospital runs into him and gives him a Coca-Cola. She also tells him to stop by and see him. Interesting…
  • Ishmael and Alhaji head over there and Ishmael starts talking with the nurse, whose name is Esther. She says she wants to be friends, but Ishmael isn't sure. Can he trust her?
  • A few days later, Esther gives Ishmael a present—a Walkman and some hip hop tapes. She also examines him and he explains how he got some of his bullet wounds.
  • One of the worst was from a fight with some rebels where Ishmael was shot several times in the foot. The doctor with the army had to try to pull the bullets out of him. Eventually, Ishmael had to be carried to another base that was a three days' walk to get some medicine and proper treatment.
  • Ishmael remembers feeling grateful for the care that his fellow soldiers gave him. He resolved to fight even harder and kill even more rebels. After all, these are the people that caused him all this pain.
  • Ishmael tells Esther this story and she reminds him that it's not his fault. He was just a little boy. Ishmael hates this line. It's all the staff members ever say to him.
  • When Ishmael visits Esther, he listens to his tapes and tells her about dreams that he has. She just listens to Ishmael and sits quietly while he talks.
  • One day, Esther tells Ishmael they're going to Freetown for a medical exam. Alhaji tags along and Ishmael gets a new tape and Alhaji a soccer jersey.
  • They also meet Leslie, a field-worker with Children Associated with the War, who's assigned to Ishmael to help him figure out where to go after his rehabilitation is over.
  • The next day, Ishmael finds out from Esther that his medical tests came back fine. He doesn't have any long-term physical damage from the war. She encourages him to start writing down song lyrics in a little journal.
  • Ishmael begins to enjoy talking to Esther. Leslie turns out to be pretty great, too.
  • One night, Ishmael has a dream about his family. He sees them sitting at a dinner table and then they're gone. Around him are men fighting and killing each other. Then, the men are gone and his family comes back but they don't seem to notice that Ishmael is covered in blood.
  • It's a terrible dream, but it's also the first dream Ishmael has had about his family in years.
  • When Ishmael tells Esther about the dream she gives him the whole "It's not your fault" speech, and, for the first time, Ishmael isn't annoyed. Esther means it.
  • She's not judging him for what he's done. Ishmael still feels horrible guilt over what he's done, but things are starting to get better.
  • One night, Esther makes Ishmael dinner at her house. He tells her all about what his grandmother used to say about the moon. He's starting to remember things from his childhood.
  • That night, he just stares into the night sky, hoping it will speak to him.

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