Summary and Analysis Chapter 9



Ishmael's group reaches the ocean and finds a village nearby where they expect to be welcomed because they assume war hasn't reached the coast. When they enter the village, they find it eerily abandoned, as if the rebels had already attacked. Instead, the boys are attacked, bound, and dragged to the chief. Rather than kill them, the villagers steal their shoes and chase them from the village. Ishmael and the boys are forced to walk barefoot in the sand in 120-degree temperatures. At the end of the day, Ishmael's feet are covered with peeling flesh and congealed blood laced with sand. The group collapses in a hut, and the man who lives there tends their injuries and feeds them. The boys must stay and heal their feet before they can move on.

On the fourth night, they ask their host his name but he tells them it's better that they don't know. He continues to care for them with food and water and salt water soaks for their feet until his mother comes to report that the villagers are on their way to attack. Again, the boys are tied up and taken to the village chief. For the second time the cassettes of rap music save Ishmael and the boys. When the chief hears the music he makes Ishmael perform. The chief then realizes that they are only children and lets them leave the village in peace.


Ishmael's innocence is seen again when the boys reach the ocean for the first time. They hide in the forest before realizing that the terrible sound they fear is the crashing of waves on the shore. This shows how inexperienced the boys truly are in the world and how the unknown brings fear rather than wonder. When they learn that they don't have to be scared of the ocean, they behave again like children, playing in the sand and running in and out of the surf with delight. The scene is powerful because it reveals the childhood Ishmael may have had if war had not consumed his life. Regardless of the war, Ishmael is still a child who has been forced to grow up much too quickly.

Silence becomes the norm again when the boys are trapped in the old man's hut by their injured feet. They never talk of their past nor of the horrors of war they've seen. Numbness prevails and protects them from each other and themselves. When they ask their host's name, he tells them that it's better to be quiet and anonymous in order to protect them all. When the boys do talk, it's only of safe subjects like school and soccer. Even their conversations seem dangerous as they reveal too much or open up topics that they don't have the capacity to discuss nor understand.

Rap music has been a constant companion in Ishmael's life, and twice the cassettes he carries in his pocket have proven his childish innocence. In this chapter, Ishmael listens to the words for the first time rather than simply feeling the beat and mimicking the lyrics. Ishmael has always relied on rap music to tether him to the outside world, but he now associates it with his survival and, for the first time, doesn't enjoy the music.