A Long Way Gone: Top Ten Quotes

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  1. “Often, my shadow would scare me and cause me to run for miles. Everything felt awkwardly brutal. Even the air seemed to want to attack me and break my neck.” Chapter 8, p. 49.

    Ishmael has been separated from his friends following the rebel attack on the town of Kamator. He has been walking for days from village to village, haunted by the terrible scenes of war he has witnessed.

  2. “Sometimes I watched the little monkeys practice jumping from tree to      tree. . . . The sounds of branches snapping off trees became my music. There were certain days when the sounds of the branches breaking made a consistent rhythm that I would enjoy very much, and the sonority of it would echo for a while and would gradually fade into the  depths of the forest.” Chapter 8, p. 54

    Ishmael, still a refugee, has been wandering through the forest for over a month, during which time he has seen no one. His only companions are monkeys, snakes, wild pigs, and deer.

  3. “One morning, . . . we started hearing  something like the roar of big engines, the rolling of metal drums on a tar road, a thunder exploding, roll after roll.” Chapter 9, p. 58.

    Ishmael and his six companions are at a loss to know what this sound is, which they hear about a week after they first meet up. They soon find out that it is made by the waves of the Atlantic Ocean as they hit the shore.

  4.  “The boys and the other soldiers who were the audience clapped as if I had just fulfilled one of life’s greatest achievements.” Chapter 14, p. 125

    Ishmael has just won a grisly contest arranged by the army corporal. Each soldier is to kill a prisoner by slicing his throat, and the soldier whose prisoner dies quickest wins the contest. Ishmael wins and is given the rank of junior lieutenant as a reward.

  5. “The villages that we captured and turned into bases as we went along and the forests that we slept in became my home. My squad was my family, my gun was my provider and protector, and my rule was to kill or be killed.” Chapter 15, p. 126

    Ishmael describes how he adjusted to life in the army and what it meant to him. Having lost his own family, he bonds with the other soldiers as a new kind of family, and he develops the ruthlessness he needs to survive.
  6. “We walked around the village and killed everyone who came out of the houses and huts. Afterward, we realized that there was no one to carry the loads.  We had killed everyone.” Chapter 16, p. 144.

    Ishmael describes a typical raid on a village that he took part in during his time in the army.
  7. “Whenever I turned on the tap water, all I could see was blood gushing out. I would stare at it until it looked like water before drinking or taking a shower.”Chapter 16, p. 145

     Ishmael is now in the Benin Home undergoing rehabilitation. But he is still haunted by the horrific things that happened during the years he was a soldier.

  8. “They fought under the soil with all their might. I heard them groan underneath as they fought for air.” Chapter 16, p. 151

    Ishmael here refers to prisoners that he ands his fellow soldiers had forced to dig their own graves. The prisoners were pushed into the holes they had dug and buried alive.
  9. “There were little white things falling out of the sky, and they seemed to be accumulating on e ground. What is this white stuff falling from the sky? I thought to myself.”Chapter 20, p. 194.

    Ishmael’s first experience of a cold November day in New York City.
  10. “It was not easy being a soldier, but we just had to do it. I have been rehabilitated now, so don’t be afraid of me. I am not a soldier anymore; I am a child. We are all brothers and sisters. 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; then revenge and revenge and revenge will never come to an end . . .”Chapter 20, p. 199

    Part of Ishmael’s speech to the UN Economic and Social Council on his visit to New York City.

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