War. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing. Yup, the song had it right. War is a terrible, no good, very bad thing, as Ishmael Beah finds out firsthand in A Long Way Gone. When Ishmael finally escapes the conflict, it's clear that nothing has been accomplished. No side has "won." And countless lives—including our author's—have been destroyed in the process.
War is the backdrop for Ishmael's story. We see how during wartime, everything takes on a different meaning. Normal life goes out the window, and communities disintegrate as people struggle to survive and protect their families. Ordinary men and women have to learn to kill. Add child soldiers to this terrible situation and it's just sad, sad, sad. They're the most vulnerable members of society.
How do Ishmael's feelings about the war change as he journeys through his life?
Why is the war finally able to take hold of Ishmael after all he's seen? Or is it because of all he's seen?
How do each of Ishmael's friends see the war? Why do you think different boys have different reactions to the fighting?
Chew on This
Ishmael's initial feelings about the war happening in a faraway place reflect our experience as readers. We hear about horrible things happening in the world, but don't fully grasp the reality of the situation.
Ishmael and his friends are driven to gradually more immoral acts in an attempt to survive the war.