Change is something that everyone faces in their life. When people encounter a new situation, they need to adapt accordingly. The first day of school, the beginning of a war, and even something small, such as a haircut are all examples of changes that many have experienced. Ishmael Beah, author of A Long Way Gone, had to deal with change. He lived in Africa during the Sierra Leone Civil War time period and his village was raided by rebel forces when he was only a child. He fled his hometown and was captured and forced to become a soldier at the mere age of twelve. Since he was put into an unfamiliar setting, he needed to adapt to overcome the challenges presented. I also faced a major change resembling what Beah had experienced when I first entered high school. When I was first put into this environment, I was completely clueless about how to confront new challenges in my classes, but as I gained experience, I slowly started to understand the different ways Ardrey Kell High School operates. I connect to A Long Way Gone because Ishmael Beah and I both had to overcome change and adjust to our circumstances.
In A Long Way Gone, Ishmael Beah changed due to being put into a new situation. When the rebels invaded his hometown, he was forced to flee and hide to protect himself. When he and the group of friends that he was traveling with had found safety with a group of soldiers, they became soldiers themselves. Soon, they started to face death constantly and they slowly got used to it. In the book, it states, “The idea of death didn’t cross my mind at all and killing had become as easy as drinking water. My mind had not only snapped during the first killing, it had also stopped making remorseful records, or so it seemed” (Beah 122). Beah’s thoughts convey that the war has transformed his personality. The first time he kills a human being, he almost faints and feels remorseful, but later, he starts to adjust his views about death. He becomes completely numb to death in order to survive in his environment. Similar to Beah, on my first day at Ardrey Kell High School, I was quite confused about how my classes were going to operate. In middle school, the level of difficulty for all my classes was practically the same, but in high school, all of them varied. I took one Advanced Placement class, four Honors classes, and three Standard classes. As I attended my classes, I was wondering how I was going to adapt to my new school. In the beginning, it was significantly difficult and worrisome, but as the year went on, I got used to the different aspects that were initially confusing, which is somewhat related to how Beah dealt with death. I was able to find new study methods that helped me prepare for my exams, manage my time wisely to get homework done, and balance extracurricular activities with school work. I gradually became more mature and my personality has transformed as well. Beah and I faced very different conditions, but how we overcame them by accommodating ourselves has made us into who we are today.
The connection I made to A Long Way Gone has altered the way I perceive war and change. Before I read this book, I thought that experiencing war and going through high school for the first time would be two very different things. They did not seem to correlate with each other at all, but after reading Beah’s story, I realized that they are similar in some ways. In both circumstances, people have to go through things they have never encountered before that changes their lives in the long run. Whether it is making new friends at the new school or killing someone in a battle, they both permanently affect a person’s personality and future. In Beah’s memoir, it states, “What I have learned from my experiences is that revenge is not good. 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…” (Beah 199). The words Ishmael Beah uses to describe what he has learned clearly show that he has matured into a new person. When he was still living in his hometown, he did not know the different dangers of the world and while he was participating in the war, he prevented his feelings from getting in the way of his work. Only after being rehabilitated he did realize that revenge is harmful. After making this connection, I started to see the world from a different perspective. It made me think deeply about myself and the people in my life. It enabled me to notice that my peers and I have our own individual lives, but we all end up adapting to the challenges in a similar manner. The overall theme of A Long Way Gone has changed my opinions about life and the complexity of it’s experiences.
Ishmael Beah, the author and main character of A Long Way Gone, has overcome many extreme problems. Even though I have never been in the middle of a battlefield, I am still able to connect with him on an emotional level. We both were put into foreign environments where we had to adjust and overcome different challenges.
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