Summary and Analysis Chapter 13



The boy soldiers are given the day off from training to play. They form a soccer game and swim and enjoy themselves. When the lieutenant calls them back to service, the boys push and shove each other into the bushes. They are given guns and live ammunition for the first time and marched off to the forest to fight.

Each boy is given a white tablet to "boost their energy" before being sent into the forest to fight, as if drugs are necessary to turn them into men. Ishmael and the other boy soldiers fight alongside the military, and Ishmael kills a man for the first time. Two of his close friends, Musa and Josiah, are shot, and he watches them die. The death of his friends stirs anger in Ishmael that allows him to fight harder. He and the corporal strip the bodies of guns and ammunition and Ishmael writes that he feels nothing toward the bodies of the rebels. He flips over the dead bodies of the rebels with his foot and notices that they wear necklaces and gold watches, presumably taken from the families in the villages they raided.

After the battle, Ishmael is numb. He falls asleep quickly, but as the drug's effect wears off, his nightmares return. He wakes from his dream and begins shooting his gun inside the tent. The corporal and lieutenant rush in, splash water in his face, and give Ishmael more pills. With the help of the drugs, Ishmael goes into two more battles and fights.


In this chapter, the boy soldiers get to behave like children, playing soccer and splashing in the river. Moments later, they are given guns and ammunition and marched off to battle. The loss of innocence is swift and confusing.

Ishmael's first war experience as a soldier is altering. At first he is sickened by the experience, but he quickly becomes accustomed to gunshots and blood surrounding him. The description of his first war is a surreal experience: his vision is blurred and he often can't hear anything among the overwhelming noise. When Josiah and Musa are killed in front of him, he finds a rage inside that forces him to fight and to kill. The brainwashing from the military is effective in motivating violence in Ishmael, but he also must have the drugs to remain numb enough to do his job and survive.