July 25, 2013
Voicing Symbols of Freedom
What is freedom? What is oppression? The Oxford Canadian Dictionary defines freedom as “the condition of being free or unrestricted.” (Barber, 379) and defines oppression as “the act or an instance of oppressing; the state of being oppressed.” (Barber, 709) In his literary work, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, Ishmael Beah uses many symbols to underscore his central theme of oppression and freedom. Some of the symbols he uses are guns, drugs, and New York City. By examining these three symbols, it can be determined that Beah used many symbols in his novel in order to emphasize his central theme as well as convey the appropriate emotions to the reader.
Guns are a very prominent symbol in the novel. In the beginning, Ishmael was very afraid of guns. He says, “A bullet hit a tree directly above my head and fell on the ground next to me. I halted and held my breath.” (Beah, 35) This is when the rebels invaded a village he was in and started shooting at him. You can sense the terror that he felt when he was shot at. Later, when Ishmael is recruited to the army, he has the same feeling towards guns. “He gave me the gun. I held it in my trembling hand. He then added the magazine, and I shook even more.” (Beah, 109) This quote is from when he was first handed a gun. Usually a gun represents power and defense, but in this moment, Ishmael was very nervous and visibly shaking. It is obvious that he is not comfortable with a gun and the soldier can tell. The soldier says, “This gun will soon belong to you, so you better learn not to be afraid of it.” (Beah, 109) This is just the beginning of the oppression of the army. After being brainwashed by the army, Ishmael had no problems firing his gun. “We went out two more times that week and I had no problem shooting my gun.” (Beah, 120) Shooting his gun became his first instinct. Whenever he felt like he was in danger from anything, he would shoot. The gun had quickly...