Ethyl is a fairly new character we have recently come across, however her humane sense of kindness and loving support makes her my favorite thus far in the book. Her demeanor is one of sympathy and generosity, something that inevitably shows Ishmael she is a person he can trust, and vice versa. She isn’t just a nurse checking up routinely on her patients, quite the contrary. She takes an immediate interest in Ishmael because she can sense he has deep oppressing demons that he shouldn’t have to face alone. We see her generosity and caring nature when she gives Ishmael a gift, a Walkman and rap cassettes on page 154. She knew that by only enforcing her authority over him that it would get them nowhere, and as Ishmael listened to the music it brought back good memories that allowed him to open up to her. She embraced his tantrums because she knew the horrifying things that had happened to him and that he had done himself were not his fault. She allowed him to tell every story he wished to tell, as she would just sit quietly and listen as shown on page 160.
I think that Ishmael’s rehabilitation is definitely a work in progress. I think for what he has been through that he is recovering at a very rapid pace. I think that although it is a gradual process that he is realizing that the world and the place he is in now is a good thing that people are trying to help and take care of him. This world is completely different from the one he is used to with his “military family”, however he is noticing that that is not the kind of family he neither needs nor wants. These people in his rehabilitation center are genuinely concerned for this health and safety, and it’s only a matter of time before he can fully trust them and people around him in the future.
One part of the narrative in which I thought Beah used a good convention was on page 166 in the last paragraph. I liked it because it correlates the past and the present very well. Ishmael and Esther are on a walk in the city and he is describing his past and the shapes he used to see in the moon. They both stared at the moon and connected with each other in a deep and understanding way. He then remembers his grandmother and the words she used to describe the moon to him when he was a young boy. She would say, “In the sky there are always answers and explanations for everything: every pain, every suffering, joy, and confusion.” I think this also serves as a good foreshadowing for his life and his troubles during the war, and to now with Esther looking up at the moon and remembering these words of his grandmother.
One passage that really stood out to me was on page 149 with the middle passage. It explains how he has to relearn how to sleep because of his night tremors. “I would dream that a faceless gunman had tied me up and begun to slit my throat with the zigzag edge of his bayonet. I would feel the pain that the knife inflicted as the man sawed my neck.” This passage is a vital part in realizing just how bad the danger Ishmael was put in. It is also a heart wrenching part to read because Ishmael is just a boy and the fact that he has already gone through these traumatic affairs is extremely devastating and honestly hard to wrap my mind around.