Summary and Analysis Chapter 2



This chapter begins in Ishmael's nightmare. He dreams of carrying bodies in a wheelbarrow through his village to the cemetery. He describes a scene of horror: mangled bodies, streams of blood, leaking brains and intestines. His last image is of lifting the cloth off the head of a dead body and seeing that it is his own face.

Ishmael wakes from this nightmare to his present life in New York City, where he has been for more than a month. His mind then wanders back to Sierra Leone and his days as a soldier. Ishmael carries an AK-47 on his way to attack a village for their food and ammunition. They open fire on the remaining villagers, many of whom are boys his same age. He and his fellow soldiers congratulate each other with high fives, sit on the dead bodies, and eat the food that the villagers had been carrying.

Ishmael is terrified of both his nightmares and his memories and longs only for daylight so he can return to his new life.


In this chapter, Ishmael reveals that violence is not only something that happened to him but also something that he took part in creating. In his opening nightmare, Ishmael is terrified by the death and horror surrounding him, but in the next paragraph, he fully implicates himself in the killing. He describes his actions with his fellow soldiers as callous and unfeeling. Ishmael's present life is haunted by his past behavior. The only solution is to live in the present and claim some of the joy from his childhood that somehow survived even his darkest days.