A Long Way Gone
The author Ishmael Beah is well known for being a soldier at the age of thirteen years in his home country, Sierra Leone. He was forced to become a child soldier and served for three years during the war before he was saved by the non-governmental organization known as UNICEF. In this book, A Long Way Gone he shares with the readers his experience of being oppressed to work for the government as a child soldier. He describes how children found themselves in a helpless and puzzling situation when their only option to survive was to become murderers. In addition, it explains how children soldiers can be rescued, rehabilitated and trained to be like other normal children. Fear can be understood from diverse aspects in that it can act as distressing pessimistic response caused by an identified threat and at the same time function as a survival strategy following in response to a particular danger.
There are different types of fear can be identified in this book. These can be categorized into displaced fear, conditioned fear, environmental fear and real fear. Displaced fear is caused by a negative experience that occurred in the past. Conditioned fear is an integrated system that helps one to know when to fear. A sign of a threat is associated with a particular incident that people use to respond with fear. The real fear is based on reasonable grounds and it enables one to take the necessary precautions in order to avoid suffering the consequences.
Conditioned fear is acknowledged in the first chapter when Ishmael describes his experience of seeing other children when he was ten years old. He explains how the children were extremely terrified to the point that they were unable to share the trauma they had witnessed before. In addition, they jumped and ran immediately after hearing any slight sound because they assumed the army was coming to kidnap them. This caused them to live in great fear. Real fear is also seen in the first chapter where three boys leave school early because of hearing rumors of the rebels’ attacks on their village. The teachers informed the students about the attack in the mining location and after they took that information to their communities. In addition, people became frightened, started running for their lives, and even gave up looking for their close family members and relatives.
Another example of conditioned fear is shown when the survivors became very frightened after the rebels sent them a message through a young boy wearing uniform with the initials R.U. F. The boy showed his amputated thumbs to signify how the people reminded each other during war to express one love. In actual sense, the boy used it as a warning to the remaining survivors of the attacks. In response, they ran to their hiding places. Environmental fear is illustrated where as the people were hiding, fear also spreads to the environmental features. This is depicted where Beah explains how the moon disappears from the sky, the birds and crickets stop singing and the surrounding air became stiff. Conditioned fear is also present five days after the attacks where Ishmael is cooking with his friends and they suddenly hear gunshots and are uncertain of whether to escape or not. The gunshots stop and they decide to continue normally with what they were doing. However, the sounds of gunshots appear again and this time people run for their lives haphazardly in different directions. Different frightened families are separated and the children shed tears for their mothers and other siblings.
The terrified villagers continue running through the swamps with Ishmael and his brothers also fleeing while the troops continue shooting towards their direction. However, it does not stop people from running for their lives and if Ishmael and his friends are captured, they will be forced into recruitment for the rebel troops. In addition, the rebel troops will then report them to the government, where they will be killed at once for betraying the country. Ishmael and the other boys keep running for almost an hour as the troops follow them with gunshots. They pass through bushes and continue running non-stop until the troops give up chasing them. Ishmael is asked by his brother if he is fine and responds with a trembling voice that he is okay. The boys continue running even after the soldiers have stopped chasing after them.
Real fear is illustrated in chapter four, when the remaining boys went back to their town after escaping from the rebels. They were very hungry, weak, and searching for food that could help in sustaining them. They sneaked and passed through dead bodies but along the way, one of them dropped an item that clinked on a metal surface. This brought attention to the rebels that were nearby as they started shooting immediately. Luckily, the gunshots came from a different direction and this would give the boys time to escape. The boys reached the marketplace to buy some cooked food but the cooks refused because they had to save that food for themselves. From that point, the boys decided to take precautions and survival strategies that would help them get their needs without compromising with their safety. They decided to steal food from people while they were asleep since it was the only strategy for them to survive.
Projected fear is seen when Ishmael has been rescued from Sierra Leone and brought to New York. His sleep is interfered by nightmares of what he had witnessed in the war. Ishmael dreams carrying bloody dead body covered by a white sheet in a wheelbarrow while all the other bodies surround him. He uncovers the white sheet and discovers that it is he with bullets from his neck to the feet. He then tries to wake up only to find that he is in New York. Ishmael gets up from where he was resting and decides to stay awake for the rest of the time because he is afraid of experiencing those nightmares. Ishmael still lives in fear despite being in a very different environment from the one he was in due to the negative experiences he went through in his home country before he was rescued.
Ishmael Beah’s story has been very effective in illustrating the different categories of fear especially the displaced fear, conditioned fear and the real fear. Conditioned fear was used to describe the peoples’ conditioned response to a specific sign that symbolized incoming war. The real fear has been used to describe how the people took the necessary precautions to protect themselves during the war. Finally, projected fear describes the effect the war had on Ishmael after moving to another country to start a different life. This analysis of the story helps in enabling people to realize that some specific forms of fear play a significant role in certain circumstances.