After achieving economic dominance following the events of World War II, the United States and its allies in Europe began to spread their influence. Commonly referred to as “the West”, these nations impacted people all over the world through music, propaganda, and relief efforts. The United States, as a free superpower, is morally obligated to promote democracy around the world (Evinger and Montanez-Muhinda). This can easily be observed in the stories of two children, Mariatu Kamara and Ishmael Beah, whose lives are changed by a brutal civil war. Despite playing a large role in both tales, the effects of western world are much more prevalent and impactful in A Long Way Gone than in The Bite of the Mango.
In fact, unlike Mariatu, Ishmael is influenced heavily by western culture before the war begins to directly affect him. One of the first things readers learn about him is that he loves rap music, a genre created by the West. He and his friends learn dance moves like the running man, wear baggy clothes, and memorize lyrics in English. Eventually, they even begin to use English phrases such as “peace out”. This kind of influence is not found in The Bite of the Mango.
Mariatu has much less exposure to the western world than Ishmael. This is evident through her lack of English skills that surfaces when she tries to communicate with her sponsors. However, there are several similarities between their lives that can be attributed to western influence. For example, both of them learn about snow by watching American Christmas movies. They are both exposed to English, most likely because of its role in the world’s economy. Furthermore, the impoverished state of Sierra Leone is the result of western slave trade and imperialism. Freetown was created when the Temne were forcefully held off their homeland as a British colony for freed slaves was built, which eventually gained independence (“Sierra Leone”). This causes Ishmael and Mariatu’s birthplace to become poverty stricken and unstable. Nonetheless, these similarities are minor in the grand scheme of the war and do not have nearly as large of an impact in their individual stories.
Even throughout Ishmael’s time as a child soldier, the western world continues to play a large role in his life. When he is on the run, the rap cassettes he keeps in his pocket help him remember the time before the war, and at one point save his life. After he is forced to become a soldier, he and his fellow recruits watch American war films to inspire killing. “We all wanted to be like Rambo; we couldn’t wait to implement his techniques” (Beah 121). Although it is a negative influence, it still largely affects Ishmael’s mindset.
When Mariatu is fleeing her captors, she has very little interaction or exposure to western culture. This is most likely because she did not care for it before the war and was caught up in the issue with her hands and finding a hospital. Additionally,...