NHS Sophomore ISAT Prep (Literature) discussion

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Day to Day > A Long Way Gone: Day 7

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message 1: by Mrs. Reader (new)

Mrs. Reader (nhs_sophomore_english) | 9 comments Mod
Day 7

Read chapters 16-18

When Beah is at the rehabilitation center, Esther helps him discuss what had happened.
At the end of every discussion, she always sternly tells him that “none of these things are your fault.” Why does she say this to him? What does she mean when she says these things are not his fault? Does he believe her right away? Why or why not? Did young Ishmael have any choice in what he did? Did any of the children?

Use evidence from the book to support your argument.


message 2: by Kaylee (new)

Kaylee Campbell | 7 comments Kaylee Campbell
Mrs. Reader
Sophomore English 3B
19 March 2013

I really like Esther. Esther seems to be such a genuinely kind person. She seem like she actually really does want Ishmael to get better. In Chapter 17 on page 165 Esther keeps telling Ishmael everything is not his fault. I believe she does this because really, honestly, it actually is not his fault that his moral standards became so distorted. I don’t think he believes her right away, but eventually it begins to sink in. The army trained him to do all the horrifying things he did. I mean, when Beah talked about attacking the cook, attacking villagers, and such, Ishmael would have never done that before the war. He never would have even dreamed of that. That’s how you know, for sure, it was the army that trained him to kill.

When Esther tells him that “none of these things are you fault”, he says, “That didn’t make me immune from the guilt that I felt for what I had done. Nonetheless, it lightened my burdensome memories and gave me strength to think about other things.” (165) So I really believe Esther is good for the boys to have around. None of them really had a choice in what they were doing while they were in the army. It was either kill or be killed. I can’t even imagine having just those two choices be my only choices. It’s really quite sad.

I’m glad Ishmael is in rehabilitation, because I really think it was good for him. I believe he soon came to realize that being in rehabilitation is the only option those boys have for their sanity. When they were in the army, their only option for their sanity was to become even more crazy. Between the drugs, murder, and the fist fights, they were constantly living in fear.

My question is: Do you think it was a good thing that Esther was so kind to Ishmael? Do you think it was needed for him to become sane once again?


message 3: by Katie (new)

Katie | 7 comments Katie Dickerson
Mrs. Reader
Sophomore English
20 March 2013

In my opinion, Esther makes of point of telling him “none of these things are your fault” because she knows that he has deep psychological scarring from the experiences he’s been through, and because of those experiences, she also knows that he is probably feeling extremely guilty about them. Young Ishmael was forced to commit terrible acts as part of the army; it would be enough to make almost anyone feel guilty. Esther knows this and is just trying her best to help him feel better.

As to if he believes her or not, I don’t think he did immediately. Recovering from such things takes time. I think even now he might occasionally have moments of weakness, where he still doesn’t quite believe it, but to feel like that is completely natural. On page 160 of the book, Ishmael writes, “… I sat on the verandah listening to some of the boys discuss the volleyball game I had missed, I tried to think about my childhood days, but it was impossible, as I began getting flashbacks of the first time I slit a man’s throat. The scene kept surfacing in my memory like lightning on a dark rainy night, and each time it happened, I heard a sharp cry in my head that made my spine hurt.” These kinds of flashbacks and nightmares happen often to Ishmael, and I think that it shows that even if he knows and accepts that all those things weren’t his fault, there’s still a subconscious part of him that might never believe that.

I don’t think that any of those actions were the boys’ fault; they were victims of circumstances. As Kaylee said, it was kill or be killed. That’s a horrible choice for anyone to deal with, especially children.

In answer to Kaylee’s question: Yes, I think it was an excellent thing that Esther was there to help Ishmael recover; I think she’s probably the main reason he recovered at all. Sometimes the most important thing anyone can do is to just listen, and that’s what she did.

My Question: Why do you think the boys treat the staff of the facility so badly, especially at first? Do you think the boys knew they were just trying to help them?


message 4: by Lydia (new)

Lydia | 10 comments Lydia Muhlstein
Mrs. Reader
Sophomore English 4B
20 March 2013

Esther always tells Ishmael that everything that has happened is not his fault. I think she tells him this because she doesn’t want him to hurt himself thinking it is his fault. When she says this she means that the way he acts is not his fault. He acts this way because he was forced into war very young and that affected everything he did. At first, whenever any of the rehabilitation people told him this he would get mad and annoyed. He thought that they were wrong because he thought he wanted to be a soldier. None of these children had any choice in what happened to them.

To answer Kaylee’s question, I think it was good she was that nice to him. I think he needs to be able to trust people again and know that there are still nice people out there. I think he needs to become sane again because he is so young and that could destroy his future.

My question is do you think Esther will continue to visit Ishmael if he moves in with his Uncle?


message 5: by Kara (new)

Kara | 9 comments Kara Miller
Ms. Richardson
Sophomore English, 2B
18 March 2013

Esther tells Ishmael that “none of these things are your fault” because it’s true. He didn’t start the war, he didn’t choose to be robbed of his childhood, he didn’t choose to lose his family and he didn’t have a choice about participating in the war. He and his friends stayed at the village Yele as “it seemed we had finally found safety at Yele. The village was always full of lively chattering and laughter. The adults, civilians and soldiers, spoke about the weather, planting seasons, hunting, and nothing about the war” (101). The boys believed that they had finally found an escape from the war; that their lives weren’t endangered anymore. However, they end up being recruited by the army as the army needed all the help they could get & as there were rebels close to the village that shot anyone who tried to leave. “We [the boys] had no choice. Leaving the village was as good as being dead” (107). The army lead them to believe that violence and revenge are good; being in the army forced Ishmael to depend only on himself. The army basically brainwashed the boys into doing things that they wouldn’t normally do. Now, they do not have much control over what they do as they have been doing it for years and believe that it is fine. Esther tells Ishmael time and time again that “none of these things are your fault” because she is trying to help him heal. When he comes to believe it, it frees him (to a certain degree).

It took a while for Ishmael to believe that phrase though. He says he doesn’t even begin to believe it until the day he went to tell Esther about his odd dream. “Even though I had heard that phrase from every staff member – and frankly I had always hated it – I began to believe it that day. It was the genuine tone in Esther’s voice that made the phrase finally begin to sink into my mind and heart” (165). I believe that he hated the line “it’s not your fault” because people always told it to him after he would recount a war story; that phrase showed they felt pity for him. He didn’t want pity. He was a tough soldier who didn’t need the assistance or sympathy of anyone. He didn’t want people to feel sorry for him. After all that he had been through, he could get through anything else. Besides, he had grown accustomed to the war life; it was “normal”. Acknowledging pity meant acknowledging that his childhood was gone. It made him think about his former life and that was just way too painful at the time.

To Kaylee: Yes I do think it was a good thing that Esther was so kind to Ishmael. I do not think he would be the same guy he is currently. Without her kindness, Beah would still be violent, untrusting, and self-dependent.

To Tylan: If Ishmael’s uncle had told his kids about Ishmael’s past, I believe that the kids would have been filled with trepidation towards him. Or maybe they would want to know what it was like to be a soldier. They would probably ask Ishmael a lot of questions.

My Question: Why do you think Ishmael’s father rarely mentioned stories from his past, from his childhood? Do you think Ishmael would be a different person today if his father had told him about more of his experiences?


message 6: by Michelle (new)

Michelle Pokorney | 7 comments Marissa Pokorney
Ms. Richardson
Sophmore English 1A
31 March 2013

Since Ishmael is a only a kid, it really isn't his fault. His innocence was ruined and that caused him to do everything that he did. He had to do it to survive, and when it comes to survival people do crazy things. The crusaders became cannibals, stuff happens. So it really isn't his fault that he had to kill a bunch of people in order to keep his own life.

I agree with Kaylee. I really like Ester, she is a really good solid character, and I think it is really cool how she goes out of her way to get Ishmael to like her and to open up, and eventually heal.

To answer Tylan's question. I think the other kids would be scared of him. Its almost like if you find out that someone is in a gang. You kind of steer away from them so you don't get beat up or threatened. I feel like they would fear Ishmael, and the uncle didn't want that, he wanted him to be accepted.

To answer Lydia's question. Yes, I think Ester will still visit once he goes and moves in with his uncle. I think Ester is almost a motherly figure to Ishmael even though she says sister. She will probably miss him because they have this nice little bond going now. So yes, I bet she will visit.

My question: Do you think the war has helped Ishmael grow as a person?


message 7: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth Condon | 6 comments Elizabeth Condon
Mrs. Reader
Sophomore English 1A
1 April 2013

No one should have to kill to live, but if they do, it can be said that it was not their fault. If someone is driven insane and then forced to give up the life they knew for something else, I can agree that it was not their fault. Ester is doing a good thing for Ishmael by telling him that all he has done is not his fault. The army lead them to believe that violence and revenge are good; being in the army forced Ishmael to depend only on himself. The army basically brainwashed the boys into doing things that they wouldn’t normally do. Now, they do not have much control over what they do as they have been doing it for years and believe that it is fine. Esther tells Ishmael time and time again that “none of these things are your fault” because she is trying to help him heal.

Answer to Kaylee’s question: Some things are good for the boys, and some things are bad. But positive reinforcement is the best medicine for them.

My question: Why do you think that Ester and Ishmael were paired?


message 8: by Cassie (new)

Cassie | 9 comments Cassie Leitzke
Mrs. Reader
English 3/4
1 April 2013

I think she says this to him because he will start to gain trust with her and it truly isn’t his fault. Like on page 153 The Nurse says, “I am your nurse and that’s all. If you want to be friends with me you will have to ask me and I will have to trust you first.” I think it’s great that she has come into Beah’s life, he needed someone to comfort him and be simple with him instead of asking him stuff about the war or his feelings. Just a simple friend. She understands that Ishmael really had no choice but to become a rebel soldier and that he is strong for still being alive for all that he has had to endeavor.

My question:
I think the thing that is truly frightening to me is the fact that Ishmael and the rest of his friends have changed so much in there character. They are now so much violence within them and think so many negative thoughts. He is filled with fear and independance, he has become stubborn and will not recieve help from anyone. Do you think he will change and become more open after him and Ester become closer?

To Marrisa,

I think it has helped him grow stronger and more independent. But I think it has also destroyed who he was, he is probaly suffering form PTSD or post tramatic stress disorder. Which is terrible because that means he has flashbacks and he always is on guard. On the other hand though it has made him understand the meaning of life and being human.


message 9: by Joey (new)

Joey Tran | 8 comments Joey Tran
Mrs. Reader
Sophomore English 4A
1 April 2013

I belive the reason why she always tells Ishmael "none of these things are your fault" because she truly believes it isn't, and she is correct in saying that. She might also say this in order to create some sort of bond or relationship between each other and help him open up to become less violent, aggressive, and more civil. By her saying this, she means that the events that happened before and during that time did not concern him. He was brought into war by propoganda. He didn't realize what he was actually fighting for, nor did he know the "enemies" values. He only fought because he wanted to save his family. Children are influenced by their peers and adult figures tremendously.

He does not believe her right away. All he can think about during this time was war and drugs, until she bought him the walkman and cassette player. On page 149, it says, "The war memories had formed a barrier that I had to break in order to think about any moment in my life before the war." Having said this, the war destroyed his childhood. Slowly, but surely, he will begin to open up to her and believe that it wasn't his fault. He had no choice to what he did. He was so influenced by the propoganda the higher ranks were telling him that it was all he could think about. Same goes with the children. Biased opinions can lead people to believe one side of the story. Of course, war is war, but the brainwashing techniques were too great for the childrens' minds (chapters 14-15).

To Cassie Leitzke:
I do believe he will become more open and less violent as the book continues on, due to him being surrounded by people that will try to help him. They try to create a positive atmosphere to help them believe "it is not their fault". As he opens up more to Esther, he begins to dream about family again and break the war barrier that filled his brain (page 164-165).

My Question:
Do you believe Esther bought Ishmael the cassette and walkman because she actually cares?


message 10: by Abel (last edited Apr 02, 2013 09:13AM) (new)

Abel Archuleta | 6 comments Abel Archuleta
Mrs. Richardson
Sophomore English 2B
2 April 2013

Esther always tells Beah "none of these things are your fault" because, if you think about it, it is true; none of the things he had done were his fault. Of course Beah would not believe her at first because he feels the guilt of the actions he took during the war. Beah, nor the other children had a choice in what they did. "Kill or be killed" was something they had to live by and they were only children, so fear was definitely a major factor used to brainwash them into kiling with no thought about it.

In reponse to Joey's question, Yes I believe Esther bought Ismael the cassette and walkman because she truly cares, if she didn't, I feel as if she wouldn't be trying so hard to get him to open up and talk to her.

My question is,Do you find it odd that none of the staff members would ever get angry at the children after their acts of violence towards them?


message 11: by Brooklyn (new)

Brooklyn | 7 comments Brooklyn Riepma
Mrs. Thompson
Sophomore English 3B
2 April 2013

I think that Esther and the other staff members would say “none of these things are your fault” in order to help ‘reverse their brainwashing’. When Ishmael was a soldier, he and the other boys were practically brainwashed and set on killing the rebels and others as well. What Esther means when she says this is that she knows he wasn’t meant to grow up this way, and he can turn things around and change for the better.

Ishmael does not believe her right away. I think this is because he was confused and didn’t know exactly what she meant. He was still brainwashed by fighting in the war and so he probably didn’t typically trust what people told him.

Ishmael did have a choice in what he did, as did the other boys. Their only two options were to kill or be killed. All of them decided to kill the rebels for the vengeance of their families and villages.


message 12: by Xochitl (new)

Xochitl Sanchez | 6 comments Xochitl Sanchez
Mrs. Reader
Sophomore English 1A
2 April 2013

I think Esther always tells Ishmael "none of these things are your fault" because Ishmael truly did not have a choice. It wasn't his fault that he needed to do everything he could to stay alive. He had to make difficult decisions in order to survive. All of the children did not have a choice. He didn't really have choice when it came to being in the army. Like Kaylee said, " It was either kill or be killed." Ishmael didn't believe her right away when she told him it wasn't his fault. This is because everyone continued to tell him the same thing over and over. It wasn't honest or believable. He eventually believed Esther because he knew Esther was being honest with him.

To Joey: I think Esther truly cares about Ishmael and by buying the cassette and tape she is showing that. She seems like she's trying her best to help him so I do believe she cares about him or she wouldn't have used her time trying to help him.

My question: If Esther wasn't involved in Ishmael's recovery, do you think he would be progressing the way he is?


message 13: by Anna-Marie (new)

Anna-Marie Vargas (anna-marie_vargas) | 7 comments Anna-Marie Vargas
Reader
Sophomore English 1A
2 April 2013

Esther becomes a large part of Beah’s life very quickly. She is a very important part of him learning to be himself again, and of him learning to let go of his hatred and his past. One of the biggest things that helps Beah with this is her saying nearly every time she sees him, “none of this is your fault.” She says this to him to help him understand that none of what happened to him was truly his fault, and that he was really only an unfortunate victim of circumstance. By saying this, she is hoping that Beah will eventually come to believe in it just as she does.

Of course, he does not believe her right away, as he continues to hold hatred and anger in his heart for the rebels and for the ones who destroyed his life and his family. Also, he does not believe that there is even anything that he needs to be forgiven or pitied for, and so he resents her saying this at first, as do many of the other boys at the rehabilitation center. For example, on page 160, Ishmael walks out of the hospital angrily after Esther says this to him. But eventually, he comes to believe her, and this helps him to slowly become himself again.

I believe that young Ishmael did not have any choice in what he did. True, he could have chosen to leave the village that he and his friends were staying at at the time that they were recruited to be soldiers, but then the same fate that befell the man and his child (Pg.107) would have befallen them, and so they were forced to chose to join the army, for their own safety (though it was not much of an alternative).

In answer to Tylan’s question, I agree with you that Ishmael’s uncle was right to not tell his children about Beah’s past life. I believe that they would have responded in a shocked and possibly negative manner, and that they definitely would have treated Beah differently if they had known about his past, and the things that he had done.

My question is: how differently do you think Ishmael would be if Esther and his Uncle had not been a part of his life?


message 14: by Peyton (new)

Peyton Adams | 7 comments Peyton Adams
Mrs. Reader
Sophomore English-1A
7 April 2013

Prompt: I think all Ishmael understands is kill or be killed. I don't think he knows the aspect of fault or being a victim anymore. She tells him it's not his fault because deep down he feels the need to be in control of everything and scare the employees of the rehab center. On the outside, he is a blood-thirsty, violent killer that's addicted to drugs and knows nothing more than to kill the enemy, but to keep that image, he needs control over everyone and when he rebels and acts like a crazed child, he wants them to gear him. When they tell him it's not his fault, he gets angry every time. "The teacher would say 'It's not your fault that you cannot sit still in class. You will be able to do so in time.' We would get angry and throw pencils at him as he left the hall." When he sees that the employees aren't phased by his behavior, he feels like he has nothing over them, so it makes him mad. I think deep down he blames himself for everything, so he doesn't believe Esther when she tells him this.

I think he did have a choice to become a boy soldier, but running away for a long time made him so alone even though he had others, he felt that they could leave him at anytime. When he became a soldier, I think he felt a sense of security and saw the lieutenant as a father figure. He felt betrayed when he was handed over to UNICEF because he was losing his 'family'. He had a choice to leave, I think, but he didn't want to take it because he wanted to fell the way he felt when he was watching movies, swimming, or even training with his fellow soldiers

Q: In chapter 16, he talks about how he buried some people alive. He didn't feel sorry for them or any regret. He blames the drugs for his feelings not being there anymore. Do you think it was the drugs that caused the numbness in his brain or the pain of being forced to kill? Do you think he began to just accept the fact that he needed to kill to survive?

Tylan: I think they wouldn't have been able to process it. No one can understand what he went through, but I think especially kids without any previous knowledge of being a soldier or forced into anything wouldn't know what to think or believe about his stories. Children who have a regular life wouldn't be able to understand what it means to be forced to kill people. I don't know that they would even believe them.


message 15: by Krista (new)

Krista Montierth | 7 comments Krista Montierth
Ms. Richardson
Sophomore English A1
7 April 2013

Prompt: I think that Esther talks and tries to be Beah's friend because she knows a lot about what all those children had to go through and she has an understand and caring personality and wants nothing but to help those children heal and not let it effect their future lives. I think she continually tells Ishmael that it isn't his fault because he or any of the boys shouldn't feel like it was any of their faults. It would be horrible for the boys to feel guilty for killing the rebels because they were being praised for doing that and that was all that they knew. If I was told to fight for my family and told that those people had hurt my family I would just do as I was told and probably trust the lieutenants like Ishmael did. He doesn't believe her right away because a this point in the story I think that he is confused on who to trust and he has been through an awful lot to go around trusting any adult he encounters. I also think that he is confused and hesitant to believe what she is saying and is lost. Neither Ishmael or the children had any choice really because if they left they were told that they would be killed and I think that felt responsible to represent their families and kill the enemy from all the harm they had caused.
To answer Payton's question, "Do you think it was the drugs that caused the numbness in his brain or the pain of being forced to kill?" I think it was a combination of both. I think that the drugs completely brainwashed him and made it so that he couldn't think or realize what he was doing. The being forced to kill part also must have contributed to this behavior because if you do anything bad for long enough then it will become habit and you will start to feel less bad every time you do it.
My question is, do you think that Esther told every kid that came into her office the same thing or did she just feel a special connection towards Ishmael and thought he needed to hear it the most?


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