Claim: In A Long Way Gone, Ishmael Beah’s cultural surroundings shape his morals, such as strength and good nature, while supporting the theme of hope.
Evidence #1: Beah says, “When I was very little, my father used to say, ‘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’…Those words became the vehicle that drove my spirit forward and made it stay alive” (Beah 54).
Analysis: Beah remembers his father’s words and uses them to keep him going through times when he is experiencing physical and mental pain and is living without purpose. He does not know where his life is going and has no one to guide him other than the words of the elders in his community, including his parents. Beah believes the same as his father, which is that his life will end if it has nothing else to offer. Knowing this, he believes that his life still has better to offer, and it causes him to not fear death. The painful times make him even more determined to continue, after being boosted by his father’s advice. In his culture, wisdom is passed from the elders or the parents to children. This wisdom that his father offers helps form courage, one of Beah’s moral traits. His father’s words support the theme of hope in the memoir, because it is a driving force for Beah and provides him with the courage he needs to face the tough times.
Evidence #2: Although Beah does not tell anyone his answer, he says, “I concluded to myself that if I were the hunter, I would shoot the monkey so that it would no longer have the chance to put other hunters in the same predicament” (Beah 218).
Analysis: Beah’s answer to the monkey story is well-thought and is selfless, since he is sacrificing saving his mother to help many other people. He chose this solution because he does not want other children like him to suffer the loss of their mother if they chose to kill the monkey. His choice shows that he has a good nature. His culture plays an important part in shaping this trait in Beah because he is raised in a culture where the children are taught to be well behaved and be kind. Beah’s decision, which reflects on his moral character, shows that he thinks it is better to make sacrifices for the greater good instead of allowing violence to continue. His solution to the monkey problem provides significance to the memoir by showing the theme of hope. It shows Beah as a voice to child soldiers worldwide. Just as he is reluctant to let his mother die if he chooses to shoot the monkey, he does not want to become a child soldier. Beah does not want other children to have to decide between life and death, or family and military. He uses his own experience as a child soldier to educate many nations about the horrors and provide hope for more children by preventing their participation as child soldiers.