Summary and Analysis Chapter 5



Their hunger drives Ishmael's group to chase down a child they find eating ears of corn. It wasn't an orchestrated attack but rather an instinctual assault. Later, the boy's mother brings Ishmael and his friends more corn, but Ishmael writes that there was no room for remorse in such desperation.

Their hunger also forces them to return to Mattru Jong even though they know it's a dangerous move. On the way, they are captured by the rebels and forced at gunpoint to join a larger group of refugees. The rebels taunt and torture an old man and force Ishmael's group to watch and to laugh. Ishmael is shocked because, before the war, no one of his age would dare disrespect an elder like that; war has negated the social norms.

The rebels divide the group, separating Ishmael and Junior, and tell them their initiation will be to kill each other. Then, they march them to a riverbank and force them to their knees. Gunfire breaks out and the rebels hide, which gives Ishmael, Junior, and their friends time to escape again into the woods, where they hide under dead trees until it's safe.

On their way to the next village, Junior smiles at Ishmael but it is the only release of emotion among the group. They walk in silence and do not speak about the attack until the next day.


The theme of silence appears in this chapter. The boys' hunger is so severe that they become irritable and sit apart from each other. They speak very little, and the silence leaves them overtaken by their own terrifying thoughts. This chapter begins with the boys in silence from hunger and ends after the boys have escaped the rebels and are again unable to speak. Their response to their near-death experience is numbness and shock.

The social custom of respecting elders is violated due to the war. Another social custom that has been violated because of the war is respect for the elderly. Ishmael writes that most of the youth were well-behaved before the war and that there was pressure among them to be respectful of their parents and especially of the older members of their community. He is shocked when the rebels capture and torture an old man who hardly has the strength to stand. To further scare the old man, the rebels fire a bullet near his ear and laugh when he thinks he's actually been shot. His pain and despair seems to entertain the rebels, but it causes members of Ishmael's group to cry and to vomit. This shows the lack of humanity that has broken down among the rebels and the humanity that still exists for Ishmael, Junior, and their friends.