“ALong Way Gone” by Ishmael Beah
Thebook ‘A long Way Gone` by Ishmael Beah is a true-life story of theauthor. Barely 12 of age, Beah are unwillingly drawn into a boysoldier during a civil war in Sierra Leone. The book is divided into21 chapters with each chapter clearly tackling events that ensue fromthat point in time in Beah`s life. The author sets the stage for hislife story by filling the reader in with personal facts, dilemma, andcircumstances that he faced following the outbreak of a civil war inhis country (Beah5).The rest of the novel is based on the events happening in his lifefollowing the outbreak of the war. The author utilizes the firstperson narration which gives the reader a clear understanding of theauthor`s motivation to write the work. Theauthor successfully creates an emotional connection with the readerearly in the book and in the chapters that follow, while narratingthe evil things he had to do as a soldier, the emotional connectionwith the readers is weakened as his actions depict him as bothinhuman and heartless.
Inhis article, Beah begins the narration of his life as a young boyfaced with a dilemma following the attack on his village that lefthis family dead while he was away with friends performing in a rapgroup (Beah7).He is confused given the uncertainty and violent nature of the warand for this reason he along with his brother and a few friends isleft with no choice but to wander from one village to another in adesperate search for both food and water.
Theirdaily lives are a real struggle for existence. In the face of needand lack of choice, the boys find themselves engaging in acts theyhad never even thought possible in their lives. Stealing food fromother children remains their only viable alternative to living todayand expect a better tomorrow. The circumstances they are faced withevokes sympathy on the part of the readers who feel that no oneshould ever have to face the kind of uncertainty in life the authoris confronted with. No one can wish that to happen even to theirerstwhile foe.
Asif that was not enough, Beah becomes installed as a soldier by thearmy. He is brainwashed into believing that the military is now hisfamily. He gets the feeling that he is cared for and valued by hisnew found family. The events in the army camp convert him into akilling machine. He loses his empathy as a human and is used as arubber stamp by the army generals to advance their evil agenda inSierra Leone (Beah4).The boy now believes that any rebel death serves the interest ofavenging the death of his family. Further, he starts using hard drugssuch as cocaine and marijuana along with the other boy soldiers.
Towardsthe end of the text, he reconnects with the readers` emotions byshowing his desire to repair the damage caused by unimaginable eventsin his life as a boy soldier. He is a hero who overcomes an evil pastand lives to tell the story, a story that is both an inspiration anda reminder of how wars can affect lives (Beah7).He paints war in a manner that even those who take peace for grantedappreciate the fact that the abundance of peace is not something welive to see every day in our lives.
Hishealing journey starts when he becomes rehabilitated in a center inBenin. Esther, who is his nurse at the rehabilitation center, is veryinstrumental in his healing process. While he struggles to imaginehis past and envisions his future, the love, and compassion that hisnurse shows him helps reconcile and make peace with his being (Beah3).The boy later reunites with his extended family in Free Town who arealso supportive and understanding. He learns through his invited bythe United Nations in New York to retell his story that there areothers like him who even though have been victims of war, they havestill come out strongly with both desire and tenacity to transformthe world through their courage in times of adversity.
“Slaughterhouse-Five”by Kurt Vonnegut
Slaughterhouse-Fiveis a book that was authored in 1969 by Kurt Vonnegut. The book isbased on the events of the second world. If you are a real fun of therealness and events surrounding war, then this is the point where youstop looking for a literary work on the same. Kurt Vonnegut ismotivated to write this book by what he experiences during the timeof war. His expertise in the war earmarks his work as a credible readbecause he brings to the reader events of the war first hand(Vonnegut23).The book is hailed by many literature lovers as one of the author`sgreatest achievements. The author presents the story in a ratherfictional manner using Billy Pilgrim as a protagonist. While the bookis successful in painting the events of the World War 2, the authorfails the enthusiasm of the reader by failing to include a climax inhis work. The approach of development also calls into question thevalidity of his work.
Vonnegutsets the stage for the rest of story by utilizing the style ofimplied narration. Referring to himself indirectly, the authoralludes to the hardships and atrocities that he endured before thecompletion of writing of his book. He declares at the close of hisfirst chapter in the book that: "I will look back no more. Weare not supposed ever to look back" (Vonnegut25).From his statement, the reader is left wondering if the precedingchapters are going to be blank because literary speaking, you have tolook back for you to tell a story. No story has ever been told fromthe events of tomorrow.
Untrueto his word, preceding events in Vonnegut`s novel are purposefullybased on what happened in his past. His memory serves him well as hevividly remembers and explains as though only yesterday the atrociousmassacre of close to 135,000 lives during the WWII in Dresden,Germany (Vonnegut27).He travels far back in the past to bring the reader to the moment ofreality when an innocent person is taken to become a soldier andfight in a war they do not know the origin and specific purpose for.
Theauthor adopts a circular style of development of his ideas as opposedto the traditional linear style that follows a rather sequentialdesign. In doing so, Vonnegut openly disregards the conventional wayof writing. The subject of discussion is presented to the reader infragments. As a result of his style of not following through eventsin a hierarchical manner and instead jumping through time, theauthor`s work progresses to the end without achieving a climax point(Vonnegut26).Because of fragmentation in plot development, both the reader and theprotagonist have been left in total narrative chaos unable to discernwhere the next event in the narration will take them next.
Atsome point in his work, the author blatantly admits that he sometimesfails to remember the exact details of what exactly happened."Sometimes I have trouble relating to the details of whathappened on that day" (Vonnegut31).This statement calls the ability of the author to take charge ofwhatever information is being relayed and throws the reader into thecorner where they are unable to determine the validity of the storybeing told. For a reader to follow the story through to the end, theymust first admit the uncertainty that will be thrown by the authortime and again in the text. Even though the novel is described underthe fictional genre, I think all fictional works must by somepercentage be consistent and bear some level of truth. There is aconspicuous absence of narrative authority as the reader is takenaround in circles not even being able to tell whether the protagonistis a soldier, a child or a man (Vonnegut31).By this, Vonnegut establishes himself as a liberal hypocrite as heexpects the readers to relate to a story that he finds difficult torelate to.
Thetitle page of the book announces to the style that is majorly adoptedfor the development of ideas in the book without giving them anyinformation regarding the manner alluded to. He says that the novelwill take tales of Tralfamadore in a rather telegraphic andschizophrenic way. At this point in time, the reader is leftconfused. Later own in the book, he describes the meaning ofTralfamadorian literary methodology:
Tralfamadorianstake them all in in a single moment as opposed to one coming afterthe other. No relationship exists between all messages but as areader, expect that the author has at his discretion chosen all thewords to appear as one so that the resulting image is one that isdark, appealing and surprising (Vonnegut29).There is no beginning just as there is no end. Again, there is nosuspense, no cause and no effect. The admirable thing in our books isthe wonder of all moments coming marvelously at once.
Byadopting this approach, the author deliberately evades theresponsibility of logically presenting his work and instead engagesin circular development. This also prevents the subject from beingdeveloped to climax.
However,through the fragmented approach, the author still manages to displayand maintain the atrocities that came with the bombing of Dresden.Throughout the text, this is underscored and remains the onlyconsistent idea that both the reader and the author can relate to.The chaotic presentation has been purposefully chosen by the authorto prevent the reader from getting the sense that the moral issue inthe book has been resolved after reading the book.
“NovelWithout a Name” by Duong Thu Huong
Thebook Novel Without a Name by Duong Thu Huong was first published in1991. The book is about the atrocities, horrors and spiritualweariness that come with wars. The setting of the story is Vietnam.The author is a vocal critic of the communist government of Vietnam(Dương16).She has been on the forefront in fighting for democratic reforms inthat country. As a result of her activism, she has been dismissedfrom the Communist party and also, her books are prohibited frompublication in Vietnam. Detailing the horrors of war from her countrygives credibility to her work because her narration is deemed byreaders to be from an informed point of view. She is also a famouswriter in Vietnam, and this adds to her credibility (Dương17).The book is however like the "Free Fire Zone" by Rob Rigganin that it utilizes the tale of disillusionment and like "Meditationsin Green" by Stephen Wright because it uses fragmentation.Fragmentation limits the author from steering her story to a climax.
Allevents in the book revolve around Quan, who is a 28-year-old soldierin the Vietnamese army. The author starts developing her story fromthe time when Quan was full of hope for the future. These were 10years ago, and throughout the novel, Huong adopts disillusionmenttale strategy, a strategy that is synonymous with the western styleof writing. The disillusionment in the protagonist is shown when henarrates that unlike the American soldiers who came to Vietnam on awar tour of just a single year, he together with his compatriotsfight with uncertainty, never knowing when the war will come to anend (Dương19).The protagonist is portrayed to be struggling with self-identityfollowing a war that has converted him into a killing machine.
Huongtravels back and forth in her narration. This novel is devoid oflinear development of ideas. Ideas are instead fragmented throwingthe reader into a spin and unable to discern what awaits them ahead.The existence of Quan is one that lacks hope. The protagonist isconsistently portrayed in the light of an individual who has lostfaith. He is unable to reflect on personal situations (Dương18).The subconscious of Huong sends her on the path of narration that issometimes disjointed making her lose the narrative authority.
Theinconsistency in both time and space has made it impossible for theauthor to realize a climax in the plot. Lack of climax reduces theenthusiasm in the reader as there is no tense moment in the book thatthey can look forward to. Here, the cyclic nature of the eventsaround the protagonist character only points at the lack of theauthor`s free will. The story has no cause and effect. The plot isabsent, and the story ends almost at the same point where it started.Again, throughout the work, Quan is used as a puppet even as aprotagonist because their role is not fully developed in the eventssurrounding him together with his country (Dương19).His lack of involvement in shaping the future of the country means hehas lost hope for tomorrow.
“NovelWithout a Name” is not a great book but is worth a read. Despiteits significant flaws, it is still an important book as it bringsforth details about horrors that are brought by acts of war. In abook that many critics believe will end in absolute hopelessness, thefact that it concludes with a glimmer of hope means a lot. The bookprovides the world with an opportunity to relate to the events of thepast and appreciate the abundance of peace that exists among them forwhen wars come they sweep away that. By looking at the history, theworld remains aware of what might be lost while forgetting the pastsets the stage for it to revisit our lives.
Beah,Ishmael. ALong Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier.New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007. Print.
Dương,Thu H. NovelWithout a Name.New York, NY: W. Morrow, 1995. Print.
Vonnegut,Kurt. Slaughterhouse-five:Or, the Children`s Crusade, a Duty-Dance with Death.New York: Delacorte Press, 1969. Print.