Ishmael Beah’s Experience as a Child Soldier


An Analysis of Ishmael Beah’s Experience as a Child Soldier

Don't use plagiarized sources. Get Your Custom Essay on
Ishmael Beah’s Experience as a Child Soldier
Just from $9/Page
Order Essay

In January of 2007, the New York Times ran an excerpt of Ishmael Beah’s memoir of life as a child soldier in Sierra Leone. The excerpt is a shocking, heart-wrenching account of a boy’s journey from carefree child to cold-blooded killer, and the difficult path to redemption that followed. It shows in chilling detail how war dismantles the spirit and distorts the mind, how it shows no mercy even to the most innocent victims, and how, even after years of rehabilitation, it continues to haunt those who participated in it.

Ishmael Beah was only 10 years old when the civil war in Sierra Leone started, a conflict that would rob him of his most fundamental possessions. His first loss was his family. After fleeing his village on foot when rebels attacked his village, he learned that his parents and two brothers had been killed. The violent loss of family members is a common experience among child soldiers. A Human Rights Watch study of child soldiers in Liberia reports that 77% of children in that country had lost relatives in that country’s civil war; among child soldiers, the percentage is higher, and often the family members are killed in front them (Fleischman and Whitman 13).

This loss of family takes root in the child soldier in two ways. First, it provokes a limitless need for revenge against the killers. Beah recounts the feelings of rage he felt at the sight of the enemy: “Whenever I looked at the rebels during raids, my entire body shook with fury; they were the people who had shot my friends and family” (5). Of course, it is unlikely that the rebels that Beah was facing at that moment were in fact the people who had shot his friends and family, but the recruiters of child soldiers are skilled connecting traumatic events from the past to the concrete enemy of the present, forging a link in the minds of the child soldiers that serves as an unending motive to kill.

The second effect that the loss of family has on child soldiers is that it creates a vacuum that is soon filled by their comrades-in-arms. Since Beah had no family left anymore, his fellow soldiers filled the void: “My squad was my family, my gun was my provider and protector and my rule was to kill or be killed” (6). This deep connection to the fighting unit can pose a problem when trying to reintroduce former child soldiers back into society. As Michael Wessells points out, “romantic ideas about going home are meaningless for them, because their home has been wherever the armed group is” (181-182).

After the loss of his family, Beah faced a second loss that threatened his very nature as a human being: the loss of conscience. This transformation happened in the course of a single battle, in which Beah experienced his first moments as a killer. At the beginning of the battle, Beah exhibited all of the signs of a conscientious human being: he was terrified of killing and of being killed, and was concerned for the safety of his friends. This changed in an instant, when his wounded friend’s scream made him feel that “[his] brain had shaken loose from its anchor” (3). As he watched his friend’s eyes fill with blood, something snapped inside of him: “I shot everything that moved…After that first killing, my mind stopped making remorseful records, or so it seemed” (4-5).

This mental break as a result of a traumatic experience lies at the heart of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a condition that plagues many who experience the horrors of war or other forms of violence. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder was first recorded in soldiers after the Civil War, but was not recognized as a common occurrence until after the Vietnam War, when symptoms developed in over 30% of combat veterans (Harvard Men’s Health Watch). After they are removed from combat, former soldiers often experience nightmares, flashbacks, outbursts of anger, and the inability to sleep (Cohen 1).

Beah experienced all of these symptoms when he and some of his comrades were removed from the fighting and taken to a rehabilitation center. Years of exposure to and participation in acts of brutal violence had created what Beah referred to as a “void” inside of him (4). As his memories of war began to surface, he would have hallucinations of blood pouring from the water faucet or the shower, and in the few hours that he was able to sleep, he would dream of his throat being slit by a faceless enemy (9-10). The mere sound of civilian voices “enraged [him] so much that [he] would punch the wall” (8).

PTSD makes recovery from war extremely difficult for those who survive the violence, and can be very difficult to treat. Harvard Men’s Health Watch identifies four practical approaches to helping someone suffering with PTSD: allow the sufferer to talk about the traumatic events, provide companionship even if it is not immediately desired, encourage physical activity and daily routines, and help the sufferer develop feeling of confidence to replace the feelings of helplessness (4). Beah benefited from many of these approaches during his stay at the rehabilitation house. Esther, a nurse in the center, provided him with a trusted confidante to whom he could recount the horrors of his experiences. She also provided him with a daily distraction — writing down and memorizing lyrics from Bob Marley songs. This simple activity “left [him] little time to think about what happened in the war” (14). Slowly but surely, these activities began to heal the symptoms of Beah’s PTSD.

The final important step required for Beah’s healing was the establishment of a sense of family to replace the connection he had felt with his fellow soldiers. Dr. Judith Broder, of the Soldiers Project, says that many soldiers who are removed from fighting want to return: “The big motivation is to be with their band of brothers” (qtd. In “Revolving Door,” 3). For Beah, the first step away from this bond was creating a temporary sibling connection with Esther, a step that was difficult but constituted a huge leap in his healing. Final resolution came when his uncle appeared, offering a fresh start in a loving home (17).

Beah was lucky to have found himself in an environment where the damage done to his mind and spirit was recognized and treated appropriately. Many former soldiers are not so lucky. But despite his good fortune, Beah could never replace the one thing that he had lost for good — his childhood. This is the true and irreconcilable cost of war for child soldiers. No amount of treatment can replace innocence lost, and no amount of time can replace the joyful moments that they should have experienced in their youths. In the end, the best they can do is to tell their tale, as Beah has done, in the hopes that their stories can put an end to this tragic phenomenon.

Works Cited

Fleischman, Janet and Lois Whitman. Easy Prey: Child Soldiers in Liberia. New York: Human Rights Watch, 1994. Print.

Wessells, Michael G. Child Soldiers: From Violence to Protection. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2006. Print.

Beah, Ishmael. “The Making, and Unmaking, of a Child Soldier.” The New York Times. 14 January 2007. Web. 17 May 2010.

“Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.” Harvard Men’s Health Watch. Oct. 2002: n.p. SIRS Researcher. Web. 17 May 2010.

Cohen, Sharon. “Revolving Door of Multiple Tours Linked to PTSD.” The New York Times. 11 April 2010. Web. 17 May 2010.

Get Professional Assignment Help Cheaply

Buy Custom Essay

Are you busy and do not have time to handle your assignment? Are you scared that your paper will not make the grade? Do you have responsibilities that may hinder you from turning in your assignment on time? Are you tired and can barely handle your assignment? Are your grades inconsistent?

Whichever your reason is, it is valid! You can get professional academic help from our service at affordable rates. We have a team of professional academic writers who can handle all your assignments.

Why Choose Our Academic Writing Service?

  • Plagiarism free papers
  • Timely delivery
  • Any deadline
  • Skilled, Experienced Native English Writers
  • Subject-relevant academic writer
  • Adherence to paper instructions
  • Ability to tackle bulk assignments
  • Reasonable prices
  • 24/7 Customer Support
  • Get superb grades consistently

Online Academic Help With Different Subjects


Students barely have time to read. We got you! Have your literature essay or book review written without having the hassle of reading the book. You can get your literature paper custom-written for you by our literature specialists.


Do you struggle with finance? No need to torture yourself if finance is not your cup of tea. You can order your finance paper from our academic writing service and get 100% original work from competent finance experts.

Computer science

Computer science is a tough subject. Fortunately, our computer science experts are up to the match. No need to stress and have sleepless nights. Our academic writers will tackle all your computer science assignments and deliver them on time. Let us handle all your python, java, ruby, JavaScript, php , C+ assignments!


While psychology may be an interesting subject, you may lack sufficient time to handle your assignments. Don’t despair; by using our academic writing service, you can be assured of perfect grades. Moreover, your grades will be consistent.


Engineering is quite a demanding subject. Students face a lot of pressure and barely have enough time to do what they love to do. Our academic writing service got you covered! Our engineering specialists follow the paper instructions and ensure timely delivery of the paper.


In the nursing course, you may have difficulties with literature reviews, annotated bibliographies, critical essays, and other assignments. Our nursing assignment writers will offer you professional nursing paper help at low prices.


Truth be told, sociology papers can be quite exhausting. Our academic writing service relieves you of fatigue, pressure, and stress. You can relax and have peace of mind as our academic writers handle your sociology assignment.


We take pride in having some of the best business writers in the industry. Our business writers have a lot of experience in the field. They are reliable, and you can be assured of a high-grade paper. They are able to handle business papers of any subject, length, deadline, and difficulty!


We boast of having some of the most experienced statistics experts in the industry. Our statistics experts have diverse skills, expertise, and knowledge to handle any kind of assignment. They have access to all kinds of software to get your assignment done.


Writing a law essay may prove to be an insurmountable obstacle, especially when you need to know the peculiarities of the legislative framework. Take advantage of our top-notch law specialists and get superb grades and 100% satisfaction.

What discipline/subjects do you deal in?

We have highlighted some of the most popular subjects we handle above. Those are just a tip of the iceberg. We deal in all academic disciplines since our writers are as diverse. They have been drawn from across all disciplines, and orders are assigned to those writers believed to be the best in the field. In a nutshell, there is no task we cannot handle; all you need to do is place your order with us. As long as your instructions are clear, just trust we shall deliver irrespective of the discipline.

Are your writers competent enough to handle my paper?

Our essay writers are graduates with bachelor's, masters, Ph.D., and doctorate degrees in various subjects. The minimum requirement to be an essay writer with our essay writing service is to have a college degree. All our academic writers have a minimum of two years of academic writing. We have a stringent recruitment process to ensure that we get only the most competent essay writers in the industry. We also ensure that the writers are handsomely compensated for their value. The majority of our writers are native English speakers. As such, the fluency of language and grammar is impeccable.

What if I don’t like the paper?

There is a very low likelihood that you won’t like the paper.

Reasons being:

  • When assigning your order, we match the paper’s discipline with the writer’s field/specialization. Since all our writers are graduates, we match the paper’s subject with the field the writer studied. For instance, if it’s a nursing paper, only a nursing graduate and writer will handle it. Furthermore, all our writers have academic writing experience and top-notch research skills.
  • We have a quality assurance that reviews the paper before it gets to you. As such, we ensure that you get a paper that meets the required standard and will most definitely make the grade.

In the event that you don’t like your paper:

  • The writer will revise the paper up to your pleasing. You have unlimited revisions. You simply need to highlight what specifically you don’t like about the paper, and the writer will make the amendments. The paper will be revised until you are satisfied. Revisions are free of charge
  • We will have a different writer write the paper from scratch.
  • Last resort, if the above does not work, we will refund your money.

Will the professor find out I didn’t write the paper myself?

Not at all. All papers are written from scratch. There is no way your tutor or instructor will realize that you did not write the paper yourself. In fact, we recommend using our assignment help services for consistent results.

What if the paper is plagiarized?

We check all papers for plagiarism before we submit them. We use powerful plagiarism checking software such as SafeAssign, LopesWrite, and Turnitin. We also upload the plagiarism report so that you can review it. We understand that plagiarism is academic suicide. We would not take the risk of submitting plagiarized work and jeopardize your academic journey. Furthermore, we do not sell or use prewritten papers, and each paper is written from scratch.

When will I get my paper?

You determine when you get the paper by setting the deadline when placing the order. All papers are delivered within the deadline. We are well aware that we operate in a time-sensitive industry. As such, we have laid out strategies to ensure that the client receives the paper on time and they never miss the deadline. We understand that papers that are submitted late have some points deducted. We do not want you to miss any points due to late submission. We work on beating deadlines by huge margins in order to ensure that you have ample time to review the paper before you submit it.

Will anyone find out that I used your services?

We have a privacy and confidentiality policy that guides our work. We NEVER share any customer information with third parties. Noone will ever know that you used our assignment help services. It’s only between you and us. We are bound by our policies to protect the customer’s identity and information. All your information, such as your names, phone number, email, order information, and so on, are protected. We have robust security systems that ensure that your data is protected. Hacking our systems is close to impossible, and it has never happened.

How our Assignment  Help Service Works

1.      Place an order

You fill all the paper instructions in the order form. Make sure you include all the helpful materials so that our academic writers can deliver the perfect paper. It will also help to eliminate unnecessary revisions.

2.      Pay for the order

Proceed to pay for the paper so that it can be assigned to one of our expert academic writers. The paper subject is matched with the writer’s area of specialization.

3.      Track the progress

You communicate with the writer and know about the progress of the paper. The client can ask the writer for drafts of the paper. The client can upload extra material and include additional instructions from the lecturer. Receive a paper.

4.      Download the paper

The paper is sent to your email and uploaded to your personal account. You also get a plagiarism report attached to your paper.

smile and order essaysmile and order essay PLACE THIS ORDER OR A SIMILAR ORDER WITH US TODAY AND GET A PERFECT SCORE!!!

order custom essay paper