Symbolism of Oppression and Freedom
U6A3-‐ A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Soldier Boy Ishmael Beah
Many people interpret oppression and freedom in different ways, but it can be
expressed in everyday activities, such as television and books. Ishmael Beah demonstrates these two subjects in the novel A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. Ishmael uses a significant amount of symbolic objects that express different events in Ishmael’s journey that underscores and emphasizes his interpretation of these two subjects. Ishmael describes oppression when he is forced to use his gun to participate in the war, but he also feels freedom as the gun provides him with comfort and safety. He also uses his shoes to represent oppression because they express his need to walk and never stop to find safety during the war. Finally, Ishmael provides the cassette tapes to undergo freedom in his dream on becoming a rapper. Ishmael utilizes these symbols to clarify his interpretation of oppression and freedom.
One of the most prominent symbols that indicate both oppression and freedom is the gun. An AK-‐47 is given to Ishmael and all of the other boy soldiers to fight in the war with no questions asked. “’This gun’—he held the AK-‐47 high up—‘will soon belong to you, so you better learn not to be afraid of it. That is all for today.’”(Beah 109) In this time and place where Ishmael lived, it was a child’s duty to participate in the war with
no questions. Ishmael is given the gun for killing and protection of himself. “He took out the magazine and handed me the AK with two hands. I hesitated for a bit, but he pushed the gun against my chest. With trembling hands I took the gun, saluted him, and ran to the back of the line, still holding the gun but afraid to look at it.”(Beah 111) It is hard for children to escape from the older soldiers who force them to fight in the war. Therefore, they are given a gun and ordered to become familiar with it because it is their only possession during the war. “I hadn’t parted with my gun since the day I became a soldier.”(Beah 130) This symbol also expresses freedom because Ishmael has the courage to keep his gun with him at all times because he feels safe and in control with it, but when he is forced to leave it behind he loses his faith. Ishmael’s gun represents oppression and freedom because it gives a false sense of safety and bravery that in reality do not exist.