A Brief History of Seven Killings

A Brief History of Seven Killings

by

Marlon James

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on A Brief History of Seven Killings can help.

A Brief History of Seven Killings: Part 1, Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Barry has been in Jamaica almost a year, and is standing inside a fast food restaurant called King Burger. Unlike other Americans in Jamaica, Barry embraces the national cuisine and loves eating ackee and saltfish, although the first time he had jerk chicken he couldn’t handle the spice. Barry works for the Company (the CIA) and moves countries with his family every 3-5 years. The son of the former head of the CIA is in Jamaica; he is a filmmaker who is making a film about the peace concert being organized by the Singer.
One recurring theme in the novel is how white visitors to Jamaica––mostly American men––want to think of themselves as embracing the “real” Jamaica and not simply being tourists. Barry’s love of ackee and saltfish, Jamaica’s national dish, may make it seems as if he is engaged with the authentic Jamaica; however, his bad reaction to jerk chicken is a reminder that he is just another white visitor.
Themes
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
Barry had been assigned to following Bill Adler, a former CIA employee who left in 1969 on account of a guilty conscience, although Barry soon found out Bill was actually following him. Bill wrote a book in which he “named names” within the CIA, and gave speeches criticizing its actions. He also gave information about the CIA’s activities to Jamaicans themselves, undoing Barry’s work, which meant that he then had to “start from scratch.”
This is one of the first of many examples of witness and storytelling being threatening acts within the world of the novel. The CIA, and indeed the Cold War in general, relied on a massive amount of secrecy and spying. Bill Adler’s decision to publish a book about the CIA is thus a massive violation of Cold War normality.
Themes
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon