War Destroys Trust: a Long Way Gone
War Destroys Trust In the book Long Way Gone Ishmael Beah struggles between trust and survival in the midst of a gruesome war. He laments how, “the war had destroyed the enjoyment of the very experience of meeting people” throughout the book there are many examples of this upsetting truth. The consequences of this mistrust in people are clear as he travels through Sierra Leon while being incessantly threatened and assumed a member of the RUF. Most of this book is about the ongoing struggle within Ishmael between trying to stay alive and deciding who to trust.
The phenomena of war and trust can coexist only if you have an ability to differentiate your friends from enemies. Ishmael struggles throughout the book to stay alive, and thus decides to trust no one, but this could be detrimental to his survival. Ishmael gives an example of the repeated mistrust he encounters saying “Many times during our journey we were surrounded by muscular men with machetes who almost killed us before they realized we were just children running away from the war”. A repose old man in a village once told Ishmael and his friends, “My children this country has lost its good heart.
People don’t trust each other anymore” explaining just how much trust had been destroyed and replaced with fear and accusation. Because of the continuous mistrust in the country when Ishmael has any contact with a new person they automatically suspect each other, and things become very tense. In chapter fifteen Ishmael and his travel companions come across the ocean for the first time, but the excitement is short lived. They soon find themselves in a virulent fishing village which heard the rumor about the, “seven boys” and believed them to be rebels.
They attacked the boys and took away their shoes, chased away from the village they were forced to walk on burning sand for hours. The mistrust of the fisherman caused these boys great pain and suffering, but luckily they got through it with the help of a benevolent fisherman, “we stayed in the hut for a week. Our host brought us food and water every morning and night”. After spending months in the forest a morose Ishmael finally comes into contact with some young people his age, Alhaji, Musa, Kanei, Jumah, Saidu, and Moriba.
They all immediately froze in fear until Ishmael smiled to break the tension, and then talked about how they were going to Yele and he decided to follow them. This was most likely a lifesaving decision, he decided to trust them and in turn they trusted him and helped each other survive. They provided emotional support for each other throughout their journey such as when Kanei tried to talk to Ishmael for the first time, “He tapped me on the shoulder as if he knew what I had experienced.
Circumstances will change and things will be fine, just hold on a little more, he said, tapping my shoulder again and nodding”. Mistrust and war are two inseparable concepts, mistrust leads to war and war leads to mistrust. This is clearly shown throughout the novel; Ishmael conveys how war and fear combined can lead to savage thoughts and behaviors. He did not recognize himself any longer because he did not trust others or even himself. Through what he had seen and what he had done he was permanently separated from who he once was. Within a three year p Ishmael became in his own words, “a long way gone”.