I am opening my eye and seeing that I am still in the war and I am thinking, if war is not coming then I would be a man by now” (Beasts of No Nation 70). How does war effect Agu’s maturation?
Agu’s maturity and changing identity and the effect of the war on him is a major and major ongoing theme of the novel. The character is introduced to the story young, innocent and dependent on his family. In the first chapter in fear and discomfort and upon hearing footsteps Agu imagines it is his father coming to help him ‘think that my father is coming to bring medicine and stop all of this pain’. Agu’s family remain a concurrent theme to Agu’s maturation as he thinks of them throughout his journey, avenges their plight as his motivation to fight in the war and ultimately survive. The independence Agu is forced into from war removing him from his family is undoubtly an indirect effect war on Agu’s maturation into becoming an adult himself however it’s the company of the Army he becomes enlisted in and the activities he is introduced to through the army that have a devastating effect on the young boy’s development.
While Agu believes the war is the resistance against the force that destroyed his village, family and former life and his induction to the Army was a life or death decision the morality behind Agu fighting and killing is questioned by him in both mature and childish ways. Agu initially seems to enjoy and misunderstand
, and dependent on his religion ‘I am not wanting to die. Please God’. The religious beliefs bestowed upon Agu as a child from his parents are eventually lost throughout Agu’s experiences in war ‘he is saying God is still alive in this place. I do not know if I am believing him’
The loss of faith and Agu feeling closer to the Devil than God could represent ‘I am saying prayer to God but all my word is going to the devil’ Agu’s maturation and freedom of thought and his ability to doubt his faith only becomes ‘God is only remembering those who are praying’The third chapter presents an interior monologue of Agu’s thoughts and memories that he felt after his first murder. The opening ‘I am not bad boy. I am soldier’ represents a juxtaposition of roles between a misbehaving child imagining, or even yearning to be scolded for his behaviour and a soldier.
It is immediately clear to the reader that the story is a recount from the opening line ‘It is starting like this.’ The structure of a narrator recounting a personal experienced with the as the protagonist is a technique often used to highlight that the character has developed across the course of the story. The structure allows for an emotional and deeply truthful description while offering a
The narrative also allows a clear transition of Agu’s character from his utterances, while as a newly recruited soldier Agu is full of excitement and describes at great length his thoughts using repetition, onomatopoeia ‘BUMP BUMP. BUMP BUMP and literary devices like simile ‘moving slowly slowly like cow’. While these techniques create atmospheric tension and visual as well as aural imagery Agu’s voice is very rarely represented in the first half of the novel. As an immature character, Strika too is rarely seen talking out loud too even where the Commandant asks him where he found Agu he points instead of talks. Agu’s voice is only expressed in his head ‘in my head I am shouting NO! NO! NO! but my mouth is not moving’. While the older soldiers command language for violent commands and insults like the Commandant ‘LIAR and idiot’, ‘Kill him oh’ as well as the older soldiers laughing together ‘KEHI, KEHI all around me’. Agu’s lack of self-confidence and ability to command respect that comes with his immaturity and ensures he remains quiet until later in the novel where Agu has become more integrated with war. Firstly Agu is at joining in with the older soldiers responding ‘YES SAH!’ to the Commandant showing closer cooperation with the mature soldiers on his side and then more notably Agu later commands a woman to ‘SHUTUP! SHUTUP! SHUTUP!’ before violently killing her. Agu describes a custom of his former society to initiate a boy into manhood through learning a dance is a parallel to how Agu must kill to become accepted as a man amongst the soldiers, contrasting the different conventions and roles of being an adult and violence Agu matures around as opposed to the traditional community.
In the novel direct speech is dominated by the adult characters and is presented graphologically without speech marks and with particularly dramatic phrases in capital lettering. The way speech is represented is perhaps intended to highlight how every dramatic exclamative utterance the narrator remembers was from the people either showing desperation or representing another significant memory to him which suggests again the character looking back on the experience as something changed and influenced him.
Speech in the novel is presented in the idiosyncratic African-English accent which is shared possible explanation of the often matter-of-fact description of some of the more
Agu’s attitude toward his fellow soldiers toward the start of the novel is extremely telling of the character’s inner immaturity and childish imagination. His particular fondness of the older soldiers ‘I am liking the older men and how they are carrying gun’ suggests Agu’s need for a father figure and his emulation of them ‘I am trying to be acting like them’ creates a sense of pathos that he is in fact already in the same position of the older men he is imitating despite the age difference. In the same sentence Agu goes on to confess ‘I am thinking of my home and my mother and father and sister and I am sadding.’ The representation of his family, the company a child should be around and should aspire to grow into is contrasted with the company of the anonymous ‘older men’ and the soldiers he now has to mature into. The reference to Agu missing his sister also highlights that he is growing up in an a world of grown men devoid of play and the ability to express creativity children have together. With only the troubled and reserved Strika of similar age Agu’s attempts to connect with him are at first rejected ‘If I am asking him question he is only shaking head yes or no’. The scene Iweala creates with Agu asking Strika question after question to which Strika provides a minimal response ‘Are you liking plantain? Nodding yes.’ Again creates pathos through a number of possible readings: firstly the playful and stubbornness of not accepting another persons reluctance to co-operate illustrated by Agu puts the similar aged boys at a great distance apart in mental age and maturity. With Agu assuming a childish role pushing Strika and Strika a more adult and rational one. Strika, having being involved in the war for longer than Agu and the difference between there temperaments radical offering a contrast between the enthusiastic Agu, still excited about learning to march and how to hide in the bush and the cold Strika symbolising how a war can strip a child of the qualities Agu still harbours.
Strika is introduced anonymously as the
Strika’s lack of surprise to see him he has done it many times before
Strikas name after a violent action
Emotions sexual and otherwise
laughter is used childhoos use of laughter is fun ‘pg 17 mad horse’ then later laughing at peoples deaths
typical structure of contemporary literature (James Joyce, epiphany portrait of a young research)
reader is plunged into the witnessing the life of Agu through the recount
character of Agu is introduced
he is ambitious ‘doctor engineer hopes’ and religious too ‘find quote’. Agu is firstly introduced as moral and likeable protagonist with a positive attitude and attributes one would expect from a man destined for success
The novel subtly illustrates the wars effect on
The redemption of mother at the end of book could Agu be allowed to live some of his stolen childhood?
Morality and spirituality is a factor of Agu’s maturity. Agu’s relationship with religion slowly changes throughout the text while he
Agu’s use of language – does he ever swear like the other soldiers?
religion point ‘pg 19 god will be with me’….’feel like prayers going to devil’ ‘lost all faith at end’
Wider reader see recommended reading – online recourse read introduction and one other text that Fred said..
While it is easy to assume that Agu becomes emotionally detatched from the people the army are victimising he is shown to experience new, darker and more adult emotions too. //Talk about emotionless bits//. Agu demonstrates a growing hatrid and vengence toward the people standing in the army’s way citing them as the enemy and cause of his families death ‘quote’. The violence and physical strength that develop along with his hatred eventually equates to the same level of which the Commandant shows which initially shocked Agu. Agu’s ability to feel genuine hate and to carry a grudge of a broken family is directly because of the effects of the war and the idea of a child feeling hate should stand out as unnatural and corrupt to the reader. Agu also feels doubt and distrust toward the Luftenant doubting his past selling shoes. Again there is something wrong with a child distrusting his adult superiors where a child is dependant on them for not only for food and as role models but for security too. Agu’s cynicism and wariness of the Luftenant too illustrates a less easily deceived character who, unlike a child would, has judged the Luftenant as untrustworthy. Agu’s doubts also show he has adapted to distrust adults through his negative experience in war thus affecting his need for independence and maturity. Agu also learns to doubt his faith throughout the novel which he initially relies on for strength and to reassure him he is doing the right thing to be a soldier. Agu’s emotional capability seem to be both hindered and developed from the influence of the war but one of the more clear effects on Agu is the sexual maturation he experiences. Not only his admiration of the strong and masculine soldiers but his sexual excitement he feels from murder links Agu’s sexual development to the war.
Later he enters woman (end chapter) and feels nothing back to a child?
of in the which Ability to feel hatrid, distrust and sexual feelings
“I am opening my eye and seeing that I am still in the war and I am thinking, if war is
not coming then I would be a man by now” (Beasts of No Nation 70). How does war effect
Agu’s changing identity and the effect of the war on his identity is an important theme of the t[pl.
Structure Style Narrative Voice
Use of language descriptive devises
How he becomes man…
Distrust of fellow man ‘man selling shoe’
Sexual development ‘getting hard when killing woman with daughter’
Questioning morality and spirituality – inner monologue
Separation between Agu’s past and present ‘memories of potential with Miss Gloria and Engineering prospects’
Growing strength ‘pulling girl until her leg goes crack’ pg 62
Commanding grown woman – confidence ‘SHUTUP SHUTUP SHUTUP’ control becoming important onomatopoeia used
How the audience is reminded of his age and childhood…
His bond with Strika and hugs
Simple neutral descriptions ‘The girl is having no more hand’ pg 63
Fierce love of mother ‘you are not my mother’ pg 63
Imagination in writing style similies metaphors and simplicity
Reference to myth/ legend story around pg. 60
Childish writing style ‘use of sounds and use of syndectic listing ‘like chicken or goat or cow’ pg 56