A Long Way Gone

An Infograph by Max Vytlacil

Ishmael Beah

  • A friendly and at heart a gentle boy
  • Found that he was capable of doing truly terrible acts
  • Was forced to fight for the government army
  • Was removed by fighting by UNICEF, and through the help of his staff at his rehabilitation center, learned how to forgive himself, regain his humanity, and finally to heal

Historical Connection

When Ishmael was forced to fight for the government in the early 1990's he was but one of thousands of children who were forced to fight for the rebels or the government. The reason was that from the early 1970's to January of 2002, the country was thrown into turmoil as countless men, women, and even children were slaughtered in a civil war that went on for 20 years between the government and a group of rebels who wanted to liberate the people from the dictatorship which controlled the country of Sierra Leone. Some children were spared however and were forced to fight for the rebels or the government. Ishmael Beah was one of these children.



  • The act of setting someone free from imprisonment, slavery, or oppression
  • In the early 1990's in Sierra Leone a group of rebels called the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) tried to liberate the people from the dictatorship of the All People's Congress Party (APC) which was led by Siaka Stevens. However what was thought of as a liberation/rebellion turned into a massacre as the government army and the rebels killed countless of innocent people including children and forced children to fight for them on both sides


  • A senior member of the Christian clergy, typically in charge of a diocese and empowered to confer holy orders
  • The rebels sent out a messenger, a Catholic bishop, who was doing missionary work when he was caught, and then threatened that if he did not their message, they would come for him, to inform the people of the village of Mattru Jong, Ishmael and his friends and brother that they were coming and that they should be welcomed since they were fighting for the people.


  • Sierra Leone, a country in West Africa
  • Mattru Jong, a village in Sierra Leone
  • Small farms, villages, and towns


Man Vs. self

  • "He examined my face, and his lips were about to utter something when my stepmother came out. he looked away, then at my stepmother, who pretended not to see me. They quietly went into the parlor. I held back my tears and left the verandah to meet with Junior at a junction where we waited for the lorry"
  • Had to overcome the fact that his father has been neglecting him
  • Has to adjust to a new stepmother every month or so
  • Has to overcome the grief he feels after his parents are killed by rebels
  • Has to realize that his innocence is gone forever

Man Vs. nature

  • "Sometimes I would come across cassava farms. I would uproot some and eat them raw. The other food that was available in most villages was coconut."
  • Had to survive on oranges and coconuts
  • Slept in abandon villages
  • Has no weapons
  • only has his sneakers and the clothes that he is wearing

Internal Characterization

  • Grief after loosing his family
  • Fear of being killed
  • Doubt, feels that he will never survive
  • Innocence, want's to be happy in the conditions that he is in even though he knows that his innocence is gone
  • Frustration of living in fear