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 3, Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Part Three is set on February 15, 1979. Every time Kim Clarke gets on a bus, she feels sure it is about to explode. Her boyfriend Chuck tells her not to get on the bus if she hates it so much. When Kim walks home she feels that people look at her funny, as if they are wondering how a black woman can walk into a house like this as if she owns it. She wonders if they think she is a sex worker or a maid. Kim and Chuck met at Mantana’s Bar, a spot popular among expats. She promises that today, she will “love his hair.” Yesterday she resolved to love how he calls her “miss Kim.” Kim doesn’t enjoy the sex she and Chuck have, but she likes his enjoyment of it. 
Although the opening of this chapter provides some background information on how Kim and Chuck got together, there is still little context given for their relationship, which leaves us with unanswered questions. Why was Kim, a black Jamaican woman, hanging out at a bar for expats? Why is she so determined to commit to this relationship when she doesn’t seem to enjoy it, or like Chuck as a person?
Themes
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Kim concludes that Chuck is “sweet” and “nice.” She misses him when he is gone because she hates being left alone with her thoughts. In her mind, Kim calls herself “Kim Clarke” and is surprised, because she used to be called another name. The other day Chuck called her his “sexy little slut,” which she hated. But she reasons that he is “not bad looking, even handsome,” and that other Jamaican women must be jealous of her. Kim resolves to clean the house even if she and Chuck are leaving at the end of the month. She dreams of having a white Christmas. Chuck is from Arkansas, which Kim at first thought was near Alaska.
Just as Kim doesn’t like Chuck as a person very much, Chuck himself seems to have little idea of who Kim actually is and what she likes, but is instead infatuated with an idea of her as a “sexy little slut.” By this point, it has become clear that Kim is dating Chuck as a way to move to America with him. She is far more enamored of the prospect that other Jamaican women are jealous or that she might have a white Christmas than she is in love with Chuck.
Themes
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Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Chuck frequently rants about the PNP and how Jamaica is supposedly becoming communist. Kim pretends to be stupid around Chuck because she thinks that is what he will prefer. Kim feels confused and guilty because she wants to be with Chuck but also wants to be alone. She promises herself again to love his hair and other small details about him. The previous night, Kim realized that she was capable of killing anyone, even a child, who got in her way. Chuck loves when Kim cooks ackee, which he calls “that scrambled egg thing.”
Kim’s performance of stupidity in front of Chuck recalls a similar move by another character: Josey Wales. In both instances, black Jamaicans (Kim and Josey) decide to play into the racist assumption that black people are unintelligent in order to appease the white people they are talking to. This decision helped build Josey’s power––but it’s unclear if it’s doing the same for Kim.
Themes
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Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
The house is too quiet but Kim refuses to turn on the radio because she hates hearing the news. All Kim wants is to move to America and start again “as blank a slate can be.” She and Chuck have been dating for sixth months, and Chuck took them out dancing for their sixth month anniversary. The day they met, Kim had been sexually harassed by her boss and felt exhausted by life. She lives in Montego Bay now, not in Kingston. She has been stealing small amounts of money from Chuck and is worried that he is going to find out. Kim thinks about different nationalities of white men and the ways each of them have sex.
On one level Kim is a devoted, doting girlfriend, always trying to please Chuck and be the version of herself that he desires. On the other hand, she is blatantly using him as a means to get to America, and is also stealing from him. Both these sides of Kim’s personality are arguably different manifestations of her extreme duplicity. Whether she is being kind or exploitative, she is never being the true, honest version of herself.
Themes
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Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
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Kim envisions Chuck kicking her out and her screaming in protest. Earlier she had sex with a man in order to get a passport and visa, closing her eyes and thinking “of Arkansas.” She asks herself if it was worth it, and concludes that it was and she would do it again. Now she needs to wash the smell of this other man off her before Chuck comes home. She told Chuck she already had a visa and curses herself for not getting pregnant with Chuck’s child already. She wonders if she will one day get bored of life in America. She thinks it is important that she and Chuck get married soon, to ensure that he will take her with him.
At this point, Kim’s single-minded and rather reckless fixation on moving to America is too similar to Nina to ignore. While it is true that many women in Jamaica are desperate to move, there are other clues that there is a link between Nina and Kim––for example, the fact that Kim used to go by a different name, and the fact that she used to live in Kingston. Given the lengths Nina previously went to in order to try and get a visa, and the fact that Nina’s sister’s name is Kimmy, it seems entirely possible she has now assumed a new identity as Kim Clarke.   
Themes
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Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Kim wonders if she should pack. She imagines telling Chuck that she wanted to be “proactive.” Chuck once told her that he expected Jamaican women to be more like black American women, and was surprised to find that Jamaicans were “sexually conservative.” Chuck comes home without Kim noticing; he has overheard her talking to herself. Kim starts cooking ackee for dinner. Chuck tells her that he got a memo from his company, Alcorp, saying that their work was ending quicker than expected and that he will be flying out next week. At first Kim is excited, talking about what she should pack. However, eventually Chuck says that he is leaving without her.
Chuck’s comment about Kim/Nina being more “sexually conservative” than he expected for a Jamaican woman indicates that he does not really respect her, and foreshadows his abandonment of her by showing that he treats her as generic and replaceable, rather than a unique individual. Chuck’s interest in Kim is clearly rooted in stereotypes about Jamaican women’s sexuality rather than a specific attraction to Kim as a person.
Themes
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Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
The ackee Kim was cooking burns and the room fills with smoke. Kim begins laughing hysterically, which angers Chuck. He points out that he never took his wedding ring off, and when Kim asks the name of his “white wife,” Chuck replies that she isn’t white. He then adds: “She’s blacker than you.” Kim grabs the newspaper Chuck was reading and goes into the bedroom alone. She tells herself to calm down. Chuck knocks on the door but she tells him not to come in. She looks at the newspaper and sees that Kim-Marie Burgess is a finalist for Miss Jamaica 1979. She glances at an article about Papa-Lo and Shotta Sherrif, all while urging herself not to look. 
Both Chuck and Kim have been engaging in powerful acts of self-delusion. While Kim ignored Chuck’s wedding ring, Chuck treated his affair with Kim like an official relationship, moving in with her and taking her out to celebrate their six-month anniversary. Both characters feel able to do this because of the possibilities afforded by moving to a different country. Chuck creates a fake life for himself in Jamaica, and Kim does the same so she can move to the US.
Themes
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
Kim has been running for two years but feels she has been found. She sees a picture of the Singer in the newspaper and remembers waiting outside his house. She started running on December 3, 1976 and never stopped. In her mind, she almost says the name “Nina,” but then stops, telling herself: “That is a dead name of a dead woman in a dead city.” Kim lights a cigarette and takes a drag. She then stubs the cigarette on the newspaper, lighting it on fire, and throws it on the bed. The bedroom goes up in flames.
Kim/Nina’s desire for self-reinvention is symbolized by the act of lighting the newspaper on fire. She sees her previous life as Nina as being “dead,” and now wants to burn her current life into nonexistence in order to recreate herself as a new person, starting with yet another blank slate.
Themes
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