Study Guide

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier Innocence

By Ishmael Beah

Innocence

Kids start out uncorrupted and pure. (Except for your annoying little brother.) If you've ever talked to a little kid, you've probably marveled at how naturally sweet, trusting, and innocent they are. They think good things will happen to them; they love to play; they assume that people are nice and that they'll be taken care of by adults; they don't have to worry about grownup matters. When that doesn't happen, whether because of family conflict or social problems, that carefree innocence is lost. Their childlike worldview is gone, replaced by Reality.

In A Long Way Gone, Ishmael Beah is only 12 years old when his home village is attacked and his childhood is turned upside down. He was safe and secure, but now all that is over. Gradually, Ishmael is forced into all kinds of adult situations that he's just not ready for. His entire childhood is stolen by the war. After experiences like his, that innocence is gone forever.

Questions About Innocence

  1. Why is it important for the staff at the rehabilitation center to let the boys know their actions were not their fault?
  2. How do Ishmael's memories from childhood bring him comfort during his darkest days?
  3. Child soldiers are still forcibly recruited in many countries today. Why would armies want to use children like Ishmael as fighters? Is their innocence an asset?

Chew on This

Though Ishmael tries to reclaim some of his lost childhood after the war, he can never fully get back what was taken from him.

Ishmael turns his lost innocence to good use—to help counsel others about the dangers of war.

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