A Long Way Gone

Memoirs of a Boy Soldier
by Ishmael Beah
A Long Way Gone
 In the 50-plus conflicts
going on around the
globe, it’s estimated
there are 300,000 child
 Ishmael Beah used to
be one of them.
Ishmael Beah
 First-hand account of civil
war in Sierra Leone, West
 Flees attacking rebels
 Searches for lost relatives
 Seeks food and shelter in
the bush
 Recruited by the
government army and
turned into a ruthless
War in Sierra Leone
 The Sierra Leone
Civil War began
in March 1991.
War in Sierra Leone
 Revolutionary United
Front (RUF), with
support from the
special forces of Charles
Taylor’s National
Patriotic Front of
Liberia (NPFL),
intervened in Sierra
Leone in an attempt to
overthrow the Momoh
War in Sierra Leone
 Sparked a gruesome 11year civil war that
enveloped the country
 Left over 50,000 dead.
Ishmael Beah
 Born in 1980
 Moved to U.S. in 1998
 Graduated from Oberlin
College with a bachelor’s
in political science
 Member of the Human
Rights Watch Children’s
Division Advisory
 Spoke before the United
Journal 1: Blood Diamond
 What vestiges of
colonialism did you
notice in Blood
 What responsibility
for the violence and
destruction of
Sierra Leone is
reasonable to place
on Europeans and
Journal 2: Response to Danny
 In Blood Diamond, Danny
states: “Sometimes I
wonder, will God ever
forgive us for what we’ve
done to each other? Then
I look around and I
realize, God left this place
a long time ago.”
 How would you respond
to Danny’s statement?
Journal 3: Ishmael interview
 Watch Ishmael Beah’s interview
 One of the larger messages is that “everyone is
capable of going beyond their own humanity and
doing things that are not humane.”
 Where have you seen examples of this in the novels
we’ve read this year or in historical events that you’ve
 Are there current events that reflect this statement’s
 Do you think you will ever act in an inhumane way?
Why or why not?
 Remember to utilize the tools of diction and detail.
Journal 4: Human needs
 In your journal list
all of the needs of
 Place your list
inside a pyramid
with the most
necessary needs on
the bottom and the
least necessary at
the top.
Journal 5: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
Maslow first
introduced his
concept of a
hierarchy of
needs in 1943.
This hierarchy
suggests that
people are
motivated to
fulfill basic
needs before
moving on to
other needs.
Journal 6: Where do I fit right now?
 Where do you currently
fit on Maslov’s
 Why?
 To what do you
attribute your position?
Journal 7: Group Analysis
1. In groups of four, analyze the first 5 chapters of A
Long Way Gone to determine what Ishmael lost
due to the war.
2. In your journals, draw a new pyramid and place
the items Ishmael lost due to war into the
hierarchy of needs, labeling them appropriately.
3. Identify which level on Maslov’s Hierarchy Beah
is in at the end of Chapter 5.
4. Are people in such a needy state able to remain
humane? Why or why not.
Journal 8: Nightmares
1. Read the opening
paragraphs of Chapter 2.
2. Annotate how Beah
develops his nightmare
using specific detail.
3. What phrases were most
provocative? Why?
4. Describe a recent or
common nightmare you
Journal 9: Childhood Places
 A Childhood Place: Describe
in a full page some place that
seemed mysterious, exotic, or
fearful to you.
 Concentrate on creating the
same impression on your
reader by a careful selection
of sensory details that recreate
the setting.
 Help us recognize what was
special about this place. Or
make up a fantasy place that
has these qualities…just
describe it well enough for us
to believe in it too.
Chart for “State of the World”
 Groups for each
 Using the book at each
station, find the
evidence to help you
answer the questions
 Discuss the questions
together and then
complete the chart
using your own ideas
Journal 10: Mentors
 Mentor furnishes hero with
important skills and advice.
 May appear at important
moments to help hero get
over an obstacle, then
 Typical mentors are old
and wise.
 The act of giving reminds
us of the generosity to
which we must aspire. The
receiving of the gift may
well be seen as reward for
courage and self-sacrifice.
Journal 10: Mentors
 In Chapters 6-8, Beah describes many experiences where
the villagers do not trust the younger boys. The rebels
have created an environment where very few people are
willing to mentor the younger generation for fear of their
lives. What important traditions or cultural shifts do you
anticipate will change due to this factor?
 Prompt: Choose an important mentor (someone from an
older generation) and describe the impact that this person
has had on your life. Explain what your life is like
because of their influence and describe what you think
you would lose without their input.
Journal 11: “My Own Worst Enemy”
• Read the first couple
paragraphs of Chapter 10.
• Describe an experience where
you know you were working
as your own worst enemy.
• What were the circumstances?
• What was the outcome?
• Take an objective look at your
emotions during this point in
time and analyze how your
impression of things clouded
your choices.
Journal 12: Pathetic Fallacy
Beah is very good at using pathetic fallacy
• the presentation of inanimate objects in nature as possessing human
• Find at least one example from your annotations today and discuss its
impact in your groups
What do you think really saved the boys at the end of Chapter 9?
How are Beah’s cassette tapes involved?
How difficult was it to realize he was so close to be reunited with his family
only to learn that they were killed by the rebels? Why do you think he reacts
to Gasemu’s death as he does?
Group work for Chapters 12-14
Review your annotations from chapters 12-14 and select a few
examples which identify how the boys were desensitized to
violence. What type of persuasion was used? How was it
Compare and contrast these examples with the previous texts
that we’ve read. Where do you see similarities in the military’s
attempts to create the perfect soldier? Consider Wiesel’s
memoir, Bradbury’s descriptions of a society focused on
“happiness,” Remarque’s descriptions of “the enemy”,
Martel’s descriptions of survival, and other sources.
Look for patterns as you make your connections and highlight
broad categories that you uncover.
Journal 13: Forgiveness
 How do you define
 What experience do
you have with it?
 Describe the
circumstances and how
you have lived with the
Journal 14: Shooting the Monkey
 Read the last two pages of
the novel.
 What do you think about
Beah’s answer to the story
about shooting the
 How would you
 What is the larger
meaning of this story.
 Why does Beah choose
to end the book with it?

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