Summary and Analysis Chapter 4



Ishmael, his brother, and their friends walk for days in hunger and silence. They pass through abandoned villages and see houses ransacked and dead bodies everywhere. Their hunger becomes all-consuming, and they are forced to return to Khalilou's house for money and provisions. They find the house destroyed, but Ishmael's tiny bag of money is still stashed under the foot of the bed.

To seek safety, the group must cross a clearing filled with dead bodies. During the crossing, something falls out of a pocket and makes enough noise to alert the rebel guards in a nearby tower. Ishmael, who has already reached the other side, watches his brother pretend to be dead among the bodies so that the guards don't shoot.

Though the boys now have money to buy food, they find that the neighbors in the nearby villages won't sell to them. Either there aren't enough provisions or the villagers are stashing supplies for their own later struggle to survive. Ishmael and his band steal food in the night.


Throughout this chapter, Ishmael's group faces struggles they've never encountered: terror, starvation, and desperation. They try to make logical decisions, such as returning to Khalilou's house to get money to buy food, but they find that logic isn't as useful during war. War brings constant change, and there is no control over the outcome. Their desperation leads them to steal food from strangers, which is something they'd never have considered before the war. Ishmael reveals their theft in the last line of the chapter as if his guilt and shame remain.