This disbelief would fade with relative quickness though as in a matter of less than a day from this intrusion into his life, Baeh would see more bloodshed and death than any child should ever know. The horrific sequence in which the war first becomes visible to the author tells with unflinching honesty the degree to which violence had come to rule his former home. This would be part and parcel to his rehabilitation though, with four years of war behind him. Baeh would have to remind himself that he had been a victim and not the perpetrator during the four years of his childhood that were deployed to this brutal conflict. A perfectly fitting metaphor for the moment of his innoncence being taken from his is that in which he describes a woman carrying a dead baby. Baeh tells that “the image of that woman and her baby plagued my mind… I didnt want to go back to where that woman came from; it was clear in the eyes of the baby that all had been lost. ” (6) Here, Baeh succinctly describes that environment into which he was forcibly entered into manhood. That this is a story told with Western audiences in mind is appropriate, as the narrative shifts with remarkable quickness from that of a relatable youth to that of a wearied civil warrior. The authors experiences are not enviable, but his survival and perspective are quite awe-inspiring. The process of descending into a place where all is lost is told with humble directness, helping us to understand the depths to which humanity must descend to survive here within.
The fact of Baehs eventual rehabilitation is thus all the more compelling.
That Baeh would even live to tell his story is among the most incredible aspects of the text.
That he could do it with such frankness, openness and forgiveness — most of all to himself — would be the distinguishing feature of the work and its author. There is little question in reflection for the reader that Baehs experience would become devastatingly normal and necessary for survival, marking him not as a villain but as one who has been exploited. His story represents ably and movingly the crime committed upon countless children, robbed of innocence, youth and — so often — life by the call to arms. Ultimately, the author commands empathy for so effectively conveying this point, provoking the reader to a greater awareness of the manner in which children are victimized by the terrible strains of war. In a kill-or-be-killed scenario, it is only appropriate that one who has killed such as has Baeh has be forgiven for his will to survive.
Baeh, I. (2007). A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. Farrar, Giroux & Strauss.
1. Describe the conditions that forced Ishmael to turn from being a gentle 12-year-old boy to become a “solider” capable of gruesome acts of terror. Did he have any options? How was.