Study Guide

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier Choices

By Ishmael Beah

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People love choices. For example, this morning Shmoop chose to have a nice big bowl of Multigrain Cheerios for breakfast instead of Pop Tarts. It was really great.

But what happens when our choices are taken away? Or when the only choices before us are all bad ones? This is Ishmael's dilemma in A Long Way Gone. He has to make decisions in order to survive, decisions that only have bad outcomes. Should he steal food or starve? Should he join the army or be killed? All terrible options, and we're left to wonder if Ishmael is really free to decide anything at all. When it's kill or be killed, and you're thirteen years old, do you really have any choice?

Questions About Choices

  1. If you were in Ishmael's situation, would you have made the same choices as he did?
  2. How do war and violence take away people's ability to choose their own futures?
  3. What do you think of Ishmael's answer to the story of the hunter and the monkey? What would you do if you were that hunter?

Chew on This

The war has stripped Ishmael of his freedom to decide.

Ishmael's choices change throughout the story.

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