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The Affects Of War On Children

2718 words - 11 pages

It is said that the most delicate, crucial time in one’s life is their childhood. In a span of four years, a child is taught to walk, talk and interact with one another. Around this time, they also begin to learn a sense of right and wrong. A child who is raised in a nurturing environment knows to be kind and caring towards others, whereas a child that is brought up in violent and demoralizing conditions displays more hostility towards others. The protagonists in Loung Ung’s First They Killed My Father and Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone are prime examples of children who commit demoralizing acts as a result of their violent surroundings. Therefore, as child soldiers, both Ishmael and Loung are corrupted by their experiences, however Loung is more severely impacted by the atrocities of war.
Primarily, the tragedies of war transform Ishmael and Loung into selfish people; however, if they are to be compared, Loung displays stronger acts of self-indulgence. The negativity surrounding Loung causes her to be more concerned about her needs than the needs of her family. An example of this trait is when she reflects back on her actions thinking, “I knew exactly what I was doing when I stole the handful of rice from my family. My hunger was so strong that I did not think of the consequences of my actions” (Ung 89). Evidently, Loung is aware that taking the rice is wrong because her hunger does not supersede the hunger of her family. Nevertheless, she goes through with this wrongful deed because the food deprivation due to the war is causing her to think only of herself. Family is important to Loung; they are her only support system through the war. However, the brutal conditions Loung is in because of the war, influence her so greatly that her greediness drives her to deceive the only people supporting her in these harsh times. Therefore, the war creates such unfortunate conditions for Loung that she resorts to greedy acts, and puts her desire for fulfillment over her family’s. Moreover, Loung continues to demonstrate selfishness and prioritize her survival over the survival of her elders. An example is when Loung explains that “a rice ball [was] left unguarded beside an old woman. My hand quickly grabs it and puts it in my pocket...by taking her food I have helped kill her. But I cannot return the rice” (155-156). It is customary for children to serve their elders before eating themselves, especially in Cambodian culture, however, because of the violent conditions Loung is in, she ignore this custom. The war negatively influences her so greatly that she consciously puts her hunger before a dying old women’s. She knows that what she is doing is wrong, but she is unable to put the rice ball back because her desire to fulfil her hunger is too strong. She does not think of the hunger that the old women feels because the harsh environment she is in causes her to only think of herself. Another example of Loung’s self-absorption is her inability to risk her...

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