A Brief History of Seven Killings

A Brief History of Seven Killings

by

Marlon James

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A Brief History of Seven Killings: Part 1, Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Two men bring luxury food items and guns to the ghetto in advance of the election. The Singer visits Copenhagen City, and after greeting a large group of residents he and Papa-Lo go to Papa-Lo’s house to talk in private. People are suspicious of the close relationship between the Singer and Papa-Lo, wondering if the Singer is converting Papa-Lo into being a PNP supporter. The JLP was in power in the 1960s, until the PNP won the election in 1972. The JLP will now do anything to seize the country back, and as a result, tensions are running so high in West Kingston that it is as if it is “on fire.” 
Because the Singer has such enormous symbolic importance, every one of his actions is scrutinized intensely. To a lesser extent, the same is true of Papa-Lo. As the don of Copenhagen City, Papa-Lo is beloved and idolized by the residents of the ghetto. However, Papa-Lo is not infallible; a wrong move could damage his reputation and possibly make way for another don to take his place.
Themes
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Josey Wales comes to visit Bam-Bam, and gives him a gun and asks if he is ready to be a man. Whereas Papa-Lo is a meticulous planner, Josey is spontaneous. Bam-Bam follows Josey down to the south shore of Kingston, to a shack where a man is lying on the ground, hogtied. Josey indicates that Bam-Bam should take the man’s clothes, which are lying in a pile on the floor, including his underwear. However, first Bam-Bam needs to shoot the man. Bam-Bam shoots, and feels that “it really was nothing to kill a boy.” He doesn’t feel pride or satisfaction; he doesn’t feel anything.
Josey sets this up as a rite of passage in which Bam-Bam will go from being a boy to a man. There is a perverse irony to the ritual given that Bam-Bam becomes a man by taking away the life of someone else. However, there is also a sense in which the act does not function as a ritual at all. Rather than feeling pride (or even regret) at killing the man, Bam-Bam feels nothing. He has become so numb to violence that life has little meaning—he is less of a “man” now than ever.
Themes
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
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