Because of the shift of values and their reassessing in the modern world, such issues as family, friendship and relationships among people have become one of the most essential concerns of the modern life.
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Solving the complexities arising among the members of the family, friends or merely acquaintances has become the subject of paramount importance, which one can trace in the book A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ismael Beah.
Speaking of the family, one can see the three distinct ideas in the book, which are: the family life, so settled and appeasing; the loss of the family and the unceasing pain that comes when losing the ones whom you truly love, so dull and unbearable; and, the last, but not the least, becoming the member of the new family and walking into the brave new world, full of new experience and the exciting novelty.
Tracking the way the topics change and shift from one into another, one can compare the novel to a roller coaster that sends the readers from the joy of having family to the grief of becoming an orphan, and then back to the joy of finding a new family. It must be mentioned that despite the obviousness of the plotline, the changes described above do not seem any less gripping.
The author also deals with the question of avenging for the family’s death in a quite peculiar and by far very unusual way. Instead of deciding to kill the murderers of his relatives, Beah starts pondering over the problem of vengeance. Beah analyzes the reasons and the consequences for taking a revenge, which finally drives him to the absurdity of killing the murderers:
I joined the army to avenge the deaths of my family and to survive, but I’ve come to learn that if I am going to take revenge, in that process I will kill another person whose family will want revenge; then revenge and revenge and revenge will never come to an end… (Beah 199)
Despite the tragic experience the boy had to take, he still understood that any revenge is completely pointless, which did not lessen his love and devotion to the late family members. Each recollection of his family is overfilled with pain: “When I was young, my father used to say, ‘If you are alive, there is hope for a better day and something good to happen” (Beah 54).
Another crucial topic developed by the author of the book is the issue of friendship – its importance, its specific features, its unnoticeable charm and the pain that comes when the friends are gone.
Creating the specific atmosphere of trust, the author tells about his friend and the adventures they used to have as kids, which makes the reader ponder over the significance of having a pal. Indeed, family is great support and the most important people in one’s entire life, yet a friend is someone who links one and the outer world, making to easier to face the harsh reality.
Dealing with the loss of friends – the physical one, not the problem of betrayal, which would have made the novel look completely dark, the author depicts the emotional vacuum that a man faces when losing his friends. “I felt as if I had been wrapped in a blanket of sorrow,” Beah (46) said, depicting his emotional state.
Speaking about his future, he still cannot handle the tragic experience and still misses the family: “These days, I live in three worlds: my dreams, and the experiences of my new life, which trigger memories from the past” (Beah 20).
Even when the author speaks not about his friends, but about friendship in general, or about someone else’s close relationships, there is that air if trust about everything he says. Depicting the way his little brother communicated with the rest of the boys, Beah mentioned, “he befriended some boys who taught him more about foreign music and dance” (6), which meant that the relationships with friends made a huge part of his and his brother’s life.
Making it obvious that one needs not only communicating with the other folk, but also putting trust into the other people and looking for the “bosom friend” who will share one’s happiness and woes, the author also shows the pain of breaking these bonds of trust.
Hence, Beah drives the reader to one of the crucial deadly aspects of the civil war: “This is one of the consequences of the civil war. People stop trusting each other, and every stranger becomes an enemy” (Beah 37). Making people fight against their friends and lose the dearest people, the civil war became the monster that twisted people out of their lives and crippled them.
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One of the most significant topics that Beah raises is the aspect of living in a community. Living in the time when the world around is being ruined and when the peaceful life collapses in gun volleys, the author creates the vision of three types of society, namely, the former world with no violence and hatred, the ruined reality, and the post-war “brand new world,” the Promised Land that Beah is longing to.
Even though the dream of the world with no sorrow might seem somewhat childish for a boy soldier, the author explains that such an idea is just as necessary as the air to breathe: “If you are alive, there is hope for a better day and something good to happen. If there is nothing good left in the destiny of a person, he or she will die” (Beah 54). Incredibly concise and at the same time as eloquent as it can be, this line both depicts the dramatic state of affairs in the world Beah lies in and pictures the place where the author could belong.
Showing how bad the civil war distorts people’s vision of the world and the rest of the humankind, Beah depicts his own state of mind as highly bellicose and almost insane: “It hadn’t crossed their minds that a change of environment wouldn’t immediately make us normal boys; we were dangerous, and brainwashed to kill” (135). Beah lived in the society where one has nothing to lose, and shows that the society infected by the virus of hatred can devour itself for the sake of an idea created in delirium.
Describing the miseries and the woes he had to take to finally get to his Promised Land, Beah makes it clear that every single human being strives for living in a place where (s)he belongs and where (s)he can find the support and the warmth of the family – even if these are the foster parents.
However, even the suffering that Beah has to take does not seem pointless here – on the contrary, the author points out that the happy life with the newly acquired family of foster parents is a kind of a reward for the years of anguish he had to take. One of the most moving and realistic stories of the XXI century, this book raises some of the most important issues concerning the society and relationships among people.