Ishmael Bear is the narrator and the major character of the book titled A Long Way Gone. Bear undergoes three main changes throughout the book. Bear is presented as being person with a complex character; one that can be appraised as being brave, strong filled with preservation. At the same time, he is also described as as weak and sad. His character, within a just a short duration, transforms into three other dynamic characters. Bears free spirits starts the narration off with much innocence and free disposition. He portrays himself just like a youngster who is trying to explore fun, especially when he hangs out with his best friends in order to stay out of trouble, but is always accompanied with his cassette player around him loaded with a rap song. This shows his unending love for rap song. While referring to his best friends, Bear notes that the one thing which he can clearly remember from his childhood is that the four of us started a dance and rap group when I was eight years of age. (Bear 6). Taking part in youthful and fun activities including the above mentioned is a sign that shows innocence. All through the beginning, Bear is a happy and giggling youngster.
As the narration develops, the novel assumes a dramatic turn of events when Bear is growing up. It is unfortunate to note that Bear makes complete turnaround, becoming sad and weak. The relevance of this fact become evident when Bear is throwing up and also crying uncontrollably. This is understandable for a character who is dealing with an adult experience. As a youngster, Bear is forced to grow up immediately by becoming smart so that he can amass large masses of strength within his body. At the end of the narrative, the reader sees Bear transforming into another third character type, where he is full of spirit, strength, and preservation. For quite some time, these characteristics were suppressed, but soon blossom, and expose the real person of Bear. After growing up and becoming old, Bear appears to be determine more than ever. He proclaims thus: I would forever educate people that children possess the resilience to oitlive their experienced sufferings.
Tracing his roots, Bear was the only child of the Serria Leone Armed Services during the famous Civil War with the Revolutionary United Front (popularly acknowledged as rebels). (Michael 15). The same revels were blamed for the impending death of the Bears family, and that his soldiering is greatly motivated for the desire for revenge. Bears story has been appraised as one of the individual survival and transformation. For instance, before the advent of the war, he is enjoying a happy childhood in his own village. During the ongoing war, he becomes a killing machine that is able to cause horrifying acts of death and violence. The moment UNICEF steps in to rescue Bear from the front lines of war, Bear is rehabilitated. Through compassion and love of both his nurse and his entire extended family, Bear teaches himself the importance of managing his anger by learning to forgive himself for the war that never belonged to him. He further learns to accept the assistance from others and use his story to educate the entire world regarding the atrocities of how war affects children.
There is an aspect of contrast and comparison used to show how Bears concept of war before his village was attached vs. his terrors and confusion when he is made to deal with incoming reality of the civil war. For instance, the refugees who come to his vllage were exhausted and hungry, but it was plagued minds that appeared much damaged. Bear writes that even when he and all his friends had been bombarded with the truth of the reality of the war to them, they would have refuted accepting it. They failed to possess the intellectual tools to enable them imagine the horrors. This contrast and comparison is effective since it sets up the child Bear was before as a means that later, contrast with the soldier Bear would emerge.
Though isolated, the village of Bear had some peace within, and this makes Bear to experience memories of his pre-war childhood fondly. His loss of innocence is violent, yet profound. He recalls the memories of his grannys advice and kindness before the war, and he finds comfort in her nice waords. The existence of rap music in the novel is a true representation of Bears way into the contemporary world. Together with his friends, these fun-looking people are astounded by its influence and power and are compelled to adopt the rap musicians ways of behavior, dress, and speaking. Rap finds a penetration for these people to express themselves via writing their own lyrics. They are seen carrying cassette tapes and notebooks of their favorite groups, as a means of working jointly on their music.
The white capsules given to the young soldiers act as some form of methamphetamine because they are allegedly deliberated to boost the energy of these boys. Bear concurs that other soldiers and him become addicted to the drugs, the same way they become addicted on marijuana, brown brown, and cocaine. They are in need of deadening their senses to the slaughter happening around them. The issue of taking drugs appears to be the soldiers coping mechanism against feeling things containing horrors committed and witnessed by themselves during the heat of the conflict (Motoko 19).
Bears narration of his first firefight is a true demonstration of a young boys quest to vilify his enemies to be able to murder them. First, Bear is incapable of opening fire on another person even though he is being ordered to act so. After his friend are tent maker are murdered, Bear realizes the lives at stake, and this puts him in a better position to realize the impending danger and he is forced to open fire on these rebels. Bear, overcompensates for his loss by murdering every non-military individual he sees and shuts off his emotions about the lives he had been snuffing out. The moment violence is unleashed, Bear is unable to control it or even return to his former condition of pacific innocence (Graham 15).
From the moment Bear is under pressure to flee Mattru Jong, his life is meant to focus on the need to survive. The primary desire trumps everything else. He does everything possible to survive, whether it involves wandering alone with his partners, from place to place, or even before join the army. If he does anything contrary to this, he may not be able to survive. The moment he becomes a soldier, the need to survive becomes a stronger motivating factor by making him quite carefree. He starts killing other people before they murder him. The art of surviving through any possible means becomes his new way of living. Upon being taken to the rehabilitation center Bear finds it very hard to trust anyone, since, for quite some time, his life survival had depended on no trusting. He cites that: I had learnt to survive and take good care for myself...I found it fun to be alone, because it made surviving easier. (p. 146).
In terms of the intensity of the war and atrocities, the civil war is intensely brutal because civilians are caught in it. A whole village can just be massacred just because each side needs to establish rightful bases from which to make an attack. Bear witnesses many atrocities leveled against civilians, who get murdered in all manner of brutality. Lieutenant Jabati, for instance, describes these atrocities vividly while addressing villages and tells them to that the group of boys who are encouraged to partake of them. When Bear finally becomes soldier, he takes part in atrocities being committed by the governmental forces. The war desensitizes them to decent human beings to an extent that they start committing very unspeakable actions.
Revenge, as an instrument of curbing th4e war, is drummed into the boy soldiers during their extensive training conducted by Corporal Gadafi. He informs them to visualize the enemy as the rebels who murdered their families. Bear, upon seeing rebels during a raid, he get excessively angry since they remind him of the rebels who happened to murder his family. When he is ordered to murder a prisoner, he thinks nothing concerning it: the prisoner was just but another rebel, responsible for the murder of my own family, as I have come to believe. (Bear 125). Thanks to his rehabilitation, Bear comes a realization that all revenge is null and void, and he thus makes the point clearly in his speech at the UN Conference, by stating that:
I have learnt that revenge is not proper. My intent of joining the army was to avenge the deaths of my family members and to also survive, but I have learnt that in case I will take revenge, in the process, I will end up killing another person whose family will want to revenge... (Bear p. 199).
The individual story recounted by Bear is one of loss and rediscovery of a once well-founded community. When the story starts, is seen making his way to Mattru Jong together with his friend and brother. Here, he has a family and a community where he belongs. As the story advances, he flashes back to happy memorable scenes from his early childhood. The moment the rebels attack, Bear loses everything and completely individually. The entire Serria Leone society is tumbles down. People have a lot of suspicion in each other; including the fact that children are regarded with suspicion since people have learnt that these children are being recruited as soldiers. There is no pleasure whatsoever in greeting a stranger. Bears newfound sense of solidarity with other people comes at a terrible price. Eventually, Bear begins to recover community at the new Benin Home during his rehabilitation. He vows not to trust anymore. The story is an awakening to all the readers who are taken through a series of events revolving around war and revenge (Gabriel 20).
Beah, Ishmael .A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. New York: Sarah Crichton Books. 2006, Print.
Michael Clancy, "UNICEF Cannot Confirm Beah's Camp Brawl Claim", Village Voice, March 19, 2008.
Graham Rayman, "Boy Soldier of Fortune", Village Voice, March 18, 2008.
Motoko Rich, "Gang Memoir, Turning Page, Is Pure Fiction", The New York Times, March 4, 2008.
Gabriel Sherman, "The feud over Ishmael Beah's child-soldier memoir, A Long Way Gone", Slate Magazine. 2010.
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