Shruthy Shankar
Mr. Natera
World Literature
June 4, 2012
A Life in War
A Long Way Gone, written by Ishmael Beah, represents many
social commentaries of life not only in Sierra Leone, with issues such as:
the use of child soldiers, civil war, and drug abuse, but global societies'
reaction and lack of action with the soldiers, within Sierra Leone.
A Long Way Gone is a true story of Ishmael Beah who becomes
an unwilling boy soldier during a civil war in Sierra Leone. The issues of
social commentaries of life within Sierra Leone are: the use of child
soldiers, civil war, and drug abuse. These three issues have blended
smoothly throughout the novel. In this novel, Ishmael has experienced a
lot, of being a child soldier, fought in the civil war, and has been
affected from drugs. He has done this on the side of the rebels, which they
had forced him towards it. The rebels have really changed the child
soldiers a lot throughout the novel.
There were many child soldiers fighting war in Sierra Leone
and one them was the protagonist, Ishmael Beah. The age of some children
started from ten years old to sixteen years old. In this young age, they
learn how to fight and kill. Throughout the fighting and killing, those
young children have been forced to experience in it. When Ishmael was a
child soldier, he was forced to join with the rebels. Ishmael agreed to
join with them, because they were blamed for killing not only Ishmael's
parents, but a lot of


Shankar, pg # 2
other innocent people. This was conflict called, Man vs. Society, because
the war was not only going outside of Ishmael, but going inside of
Ishmael's heart. (Murie Wacturu)
His anger towards the rebels had decreased later in the novel, when he got
addicted to drugs, which the conflict turned into Man vs. self, which the
war happens between Ishmael and the "Unsoulful Ishmael".
Civil War has happened all over places, but in Sierra Leone
it was a civil war of the citizens. As it has mentioned before, the two
main conflicts were a major role in this novel. Man vs. Society is the
external conflict that exists when characters struggle against the morays
of their culture and government, which is what, occurs in this novel,
Ishmael vs. the rebels. Man vs. Self is the internal conflict that exists
inside the character, which is Ishmael vs. the "Unsoulful" Ishmael. War in
Sierra Leone, did go on, until when the UNICEF had took the child soldiers
into rehabilitation center. Although as the novel progresses, the rebels
once again, come back to Sierra Leone and looks forward to fight against
them.
Drugs had changed Ishmael's life towards the middle of the
novel. It had created the internal conflict towards him, which is how he
becomes the "Unsoulful" Ishmael. Towards Ishmael, this was drug abuse by
the rebels. They had forced him into it, and he got addicted to it. He was
in the rage of getting revenge towards the rebels, but as he got addicted,
he did not have the strength to oppress them. This is where character
transformation happens as it has mentioned before (Hammond, Kristyn).
Towards all these issues, child soldiers, civil war and drug
abuse had become social commentaries of life, because it has been happening
not only in Sierra Leona, but

Shankar, pg# 3
in many other countries as well. In this novel, it convinces us, the
readers, about how the society did not have any reaction towards the war in
Sierra Leone. There was a lack of government and societies' interest, which
was why the rebels had kept on attacking Sierra Leone. When the UNICEF had
come and rescued Ishmael Beah and other child soldiers, it was their duty
and honor to treat them.