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 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Demus imagines that someday, someone will write a story about what is happening in Jamaica, but thinks that whoever writes this story won’t be able to know the reality of what took place. One day, Demus was washing himself outside his house in Jungle, when a “church lady” suddenly arrived with six police officers and accused Demus of raping her. Demus denied it and panicked, knowing that the police would shoot any boy from the ghetto accused of raping a church lady. The police forced Demus, who was still naked, to get on the ground and hump the floor. They then lit a newspaper on fire and put it on Demus’ butt.
Demus’s thoughts about someone writing the story of what is currently taking place in Jamaica serves as a mischievous wink to the reader. On a more serious level, however, it may also reveal Marlon James’s own anxieties about representing this period in Jamaican history. Demus imagines that whoever writes the story won’t really understand the truth of what happened. Inevitably this is true to some degree.
Themes
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
Demus was imprisoned for a week, during which time the police beat and tortured him. However, the woman who accused him then changed her mind and said that the man who raped her was actually from Trench Town, and Demus was released. Ever since this incident, Demus has carried a gun. Demus was involved with the group that fixed the horse races. He hoped that it would give him a chance to escape poverty and stop having people treat him like “some animal.” He and Heckle kidnapped the champion jockey and forced him to promise that he would purposefully lose the race.
Demus is a violent and morally corrupt character, but given his backstory, it is easy to see how he turned out that way. His decision to carry a gun and fix the horseraces are both born out of his mistreatment at the hands of others. Indeed, the fact that the police let Demus go with as little care as they initially arrest him suggests that the police generally treat the lives of people from the ghetto as disposable.
Themes
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Even though the jockey lost as agreed, the people in charge of collecting the winnings disappeared, and Demus was left with nothing. At this point, Josey gives Demus cocaine, a gun, and money in exchange for killing people Josey wants dead. Demus thinks this is too good to be true, and then learns that he’s right, as Josey wants him to kill the Singer. Demus is a Rasta and loves the Singer’s music. When he hears Josey’s request, he vomits and is unable to sleep. He has no problem killing police, but believes God will judge him for killing the Singer.
As with Bam-Bam, Josey targets Demus in a moment at which Demus is most hopeless and vulnerable. Although Josey’s gifts of money, cocaine, and a gun may seem generous, in reality they are exploitative. Josey knows that it would be difficult to impossible to say no to these gifts, particularly given that Demus has so little in the world.
Themes
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Related Quotes
However, Josey gives Demus more cocaine and Demus allows himself to be persuaded that the Singer is actually a “hypocrite” and a “PNP stooge.” The next day, he rises early and, as he walks out of Jungle, notices that the neighborhood feels deserted. He meets Josey, Weeper, and another man who he doesn’t know. Demus ends the chapter by saying that people who claim they have “no choice” are actually just too cowardly to choose. It is 6 pm, and in 24 hours they will go the Singer’s house
Many characters who grow up in the ghetto find that the extreme poverty and violence in which they live forces them to go against any principles they might have. Demus’s identity as a Rasta and his love for the Singer are one of the only ways in which we can find meaning in his life. However, he is persuaded to give them up by the lure of life in Josey’s crew.
Themes
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
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