Ishmael Beah had a really tough life throughout his childhood and teenage years. In his literary work, A Long Way
Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, Ishmael Beah uses symbols to underscore his central theme of oppression and/or
freedom. The three symbols he used to underscore his central theme of oppression and freedom was Ishmael's AK-47, his
cassette tapes, and the drugs he used.
Ishmael's AK-47 was the most important symbol that Ishmael Beah used to underscore his central theme. At the
beginning of A Long Way Gone Ishmael was terrified of guns. He didn't want anything to do with them. But once he started in
the war against the rebels, guns were there to comfort him. He didn't want to leave his gone. After being tested one of the
soldiers had said: "You are afraid of looking a man in the eye and afraid of holding a gun." (Beah 109) "You will get used to it,
everybody does eventually." (Beah 100). Ishmael in a way did join the war to get revenge on the rebels because they had
killed his family. He states: “Whenever I looked at rebels during raids, I got angrier, because they looked like the rebels who
played cards in the ruins of the village where I had lost my family. So when the lieutenant gave orders, I shot as many as I
could, but I didn't feel any better.” (Beah 122). Guns had changed his life. He went from being afraid of them to loving them in
such short time. To Ishmael his gun represented power and protection. Once he got his gun taken away he was lost. Ishmael
says: “I hadn’t parted with my gun since the day I became a soldier” (Beah 130). Therefore the AK-47 did have a huge
impact on Ishmael Beah's life throughout the hard times he had to go through to get to his life now.
The second major symbol Ishmael Beah used to emphasize his central theme of oppression and freedom was his
cassette tapes. Ishmael brought his rap cassette tapes literally everywhere with him, he wouldn't
Cited: Beah, Ishmael. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre Ltd., 2007.