A Sense of Community In his autobiography A Long Way Gone, Ishmael Beah’s real life situations take him on plenty adventures while he is growing up in Sierra Leone. Ishmael left his home village to go to a talent show in a neighboring village to dance with his friends. As he returned home, Ishmael saw many people demoralized and in particular a woman with “blood … running down her dress and dripping behind her, … her child had been shot dead as she ran for her life” (Beah 13). He was now on a mission to find the rest of his family. His adventures take him to some villages that are full of frightened people while other villages he would stay and be part of. Ishmael finds himself moving from village to village trying to survive another day so he could have the chance to reunite with his family. Throughout the book Ishmael visits numerous communities, some he choose to identify with, some he doesn’t. At home Ishmael was surrounded by family members. They consisted of his father, step-mom, and his brother Junior in one town, and in a nearby town Ishmael’s real mother and his younger brother. Having his family close made his home village a type of security blanket because he has people to resort to if he needed help. When the rebels attacked, Junior and Ishmael were separated from the rest of their family. He was all Ishmael had for family as they wandered from village to village. When they were on their journey to find their parents, Ishmael and Junior were separated. Ishmael was lonely since he had no family with him and was now alone until he found other wandering teenagers. When he traveled to other villages, there were people that made him feel like they were part of his family. This is apparent when he is with the fisherman who fed and helped care for him and his friends after his fellow 2 villagers had hurt them. Then when Ishmael and the six other teenagers he met, while walking in the forest, came upon a village where Gasemu told him of his family. Ishmael was surprised when Gasemu told him “they have been talking about *him+ every day and praying for *his+ safety” (Beah 92). This later enrages Ishmael because his family is killed. This comes into play later in the book when he goes to the front lines. Ishmael really doesn’t find a safe community until he is captured. Other than that, he is always running from every village community because everyone is afraid of groups of kids in there middle teens. This results in villagers chasing them, shooting them, and not allowing them to enter their village. Ishmael’s life is always in jeopardy until he is captured and finally finds a community that will provide some safety. He finds this when the soldiers take him to Yele. Ishmael and his friends are told that if they help out in the fields, in the kitchen, and gathering water that they would be fed and safe in the village. However, this changes when the soldiers are in need of more troops. The lieutenant gives them the option “to help keep this village safe. If *they+ do not want to … [they] will not have rations and will not stay in [the] village (Beah 106). All the boys opt to stay and help which is questionable to their safety, but they will still be cared for and given food none the less, which is the reason Ishmael stays in the community. Being on the war front is not an ideal safe environment, but staying with the soldiers provided enough essentials to allow the boys to live. Many villages have food in their possession to keep their community functioning. This is prevalent in the book when almost all of the villages the boys stumble upon have some sort of food. At some villages the villagers chase the boys out before they even have a chance to say a 3 word. While others let them stay for a few days before that are on their way again. In one town there is a fisherman who takes the boys into his home, after his fellow villagers hurt them, and nourishes them. This takes place until they are caught in his quarters and are sent away. Food is the first thing the boys are offered when they go to a new village. They sent a kid crying to his parents, who did nothing, because they stole his corn. The parents understood that they were desperately in need of food and “*l+ater in the evening, the boy’s mother gave each of [them] an ear of corn” (Beah 30-31). This not only provides nourishment for the boys, but also a sign of caring and friendship. The last major thing a community can provide is friendship. This may not seem like it’s all that important, but when a child’s or adult’s, parents are gone who else is there to go to for help and support? They go to the people they are around all the time, their friends. Once Ishmael lost all of his immediate family he turned to his friends to help him get through hard times. Ishmael’s friends help him survive, get through war, and coop with his nightmares. They watched movies and talked about how they had just taken over villages. Without his friends Ishmael would be thinking about war which would cause his migraines to comeback. Then when he is taken off the frontline and sent to Benin Home, Ishmael met a girl named Esther that helped him through his nightmares. She is always there for Ishmael and “every time *he+ want*s+ to tell *her+ anything, *she is+ here to listen” (Beah 160). Esther says this almost every time Ishmael goes to see her because she wants him to feel comfortable so she can help him coop with his nightmares. In everyday society and in the book, friends help get through hard times when ones family is gone. 4 Ishmael’s autobiography A Long Way Gone still has powerful meaning today. Family, safety, friends, and food are all big essentials that help everyone get through everyday life. During Ishmael’s adventure, these are noticeable when he visits numerous villages and uses all four of the above essentials. These values are not only observable in select communities, but in all communities. 5 Works Cited Beah, Ishmael. A Long Way Gone. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2007.
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