Money is the root of evil. A Long Way Gone and The Bite of the Mango are both memoirs of the Sierra Leone Civil War. Although the book does not touch upon the causes of the civil war, through research diamonds were a main contributor and a cause of the war. Sierra Leone was embedded with diamonds and other luxurious stones, thus making it a gargantuan mining center. Diamonds caused tensions between the government and rebellious citizens, contributed to the emergence of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and supplied warfare to the RUF.
Ibrahim Kamara states in a speech that “The root of the conflict is and remains diamonds, diamonds and diamonds”. The decade-long conflict affected numerous lives of innocent and vulnerable citizens. In spite of the fact that both novels depict different point of views, in reality each novel showed the horrors of the Sierra Leone Civil War simply in different perspectives. First off, symbols are conspicuous in both books. In A Long Way Gone, weapons, Shakespeare monologues and rap music are significant symbols used throughout the novel.
Comparatively, in The Bite of the Mango the mango and her passion for acting are main symbols used throughout the book. Both the mango in The Bite of the Mango and weapons in A Long Way Gone represent a loss of innocence for both characters. Ishmael killed a human being with an AK-47, which marked the transition from childhood to a manhood. “The idea of death at all and killing had become as easy as drinking water” (Beah 122). At first, Ishmael feared the idea of becoming a soldier, but as time progressed the army had brainwashed him into believing killing was a daily living activity.
In contrast, the loss of innocence in The Bite of the Mango occured when picked up and ate the mango without using her hands. This event reassured Mariatu that she would still able to live with no hands; it would simply be more difficult. In both books, coping mechanisms are coupled with symbols. Ishmael and Mariatu both use theater performances to help cope with the struggles of the war. In particular, when Ishmael recites Shakespeare monologues and raps lyrics, it reminds him the simplicity of life before the war.
Ishmael used to rap with his friends and recite Shakespeare s to residents of his village before the war; therefore, performing and taking part in activities temporarily solved Ishmael’s struggles and distracted him from the horrors of war. Although Mariatu also used theater as a coping mechanism, her performances differed from Ishmael’s. Mariatu performed different war scenarios refugees faced in order to inform others about the horrors of the war.
In conclusion, symbols reflected the loss of innocence and acted as a way for the two to cope in both novels in order to show the war in different perspectives. Ishmael and Mariatu suffered difficulties in living situations during the times of the Civil war. At one point in both novels, Mariatu and Ishmael lived with their aunt and uncle. Mariatu lived with her aunt and uncle in Magborou, her home village before the war. In contrast, Ishmael lived with his aunt and uncle in Freetown after the war.
Next, the two characters, Ishmael and Mariatu, traveled outside of Sierra Leone once in their life time. Ishmael traveled to New York City, where he now resides, to attend a UN conference, whereas Mariatu traveled to London for prosthetic hands and then to Canada to reside. Both Ishmael and Mariatu ended up in living in Freetown at some point in the novel. Ishmael had to escape the war in Freetown to live in New York City where Mariatu did not. “I had come to Canada on a six-month visitor’s visa” (Kamara 184). This quote explains how Mariatu had already planned this trip.
Although Ishmael traveled to New York City and Mariatu traveled to London, both characters saw snow for the first time in these places. All in all, Ishmael and Mariatu lived with similar family members at different times and traveled to places far from Sierra Leone in order to experience new cultures and share their war stories. Despite the conflicting point of views in both memoirs of the Sierra Leone Civil War, each author expressed the problems of the war in different perspectives. Mariatu Kamara and Ishmael were children when the war began and adults when the war ended.
Mariatu and Ishmael convey that symbols in these novels represent coping mechanisms and the theme of loss of innocence. Mariatu and Ishmael both have undergone drastic changes in living situations due to the civil war that struck their country. As a result of keeping a positive mindset during the war, Mariatu and Ishmael’s grew as individuals. “The heart of my country is the heart of the people who helped me see myself not as a victim, but as someone who could still do great things in this world” (Kamara 211).