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 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Papa-Lo is driving along the coast with Tony Pavarotti. He and Josey no longer talk. Two years ago Papa-Lo was arrested and taken to prison. With Tony’s help, he killed the policemen who arrested him. He and Tony now pull up to a fort. They open the trunk and pull out a boy whose hands are tied behind his back. Tony pulls out another man. Both the boy and the man have wet themselves and stink of urine. Papa-Lo is punishing them for having tried to kill the Singer. They deny being involved in the plot, and Papa-Lo thinks it’s possible that this is true, but at this point doesn’t care.
When we last heard of Papa-Lo, he was being accused of turning “soft,” but it seems that the attack on the Singer’s house has hardened him again. He is now engaged in vigilante justice, but doesn’t care if this is actually just or not. He is also now distinctly less powerful than Josey, as shown by the fact that Papa-Lo went to prison but Josey has remained free.
Themes
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Tony shoots the man in the head, and Papa-Lo shoots the boy. Recently Shotta Sherrif suggested that he and Papa-Lo kidnap Mick Jagger and hold him for a $2 million ransom; at first Shotta was joking, but then the plan turned serious. Back when the police arrested Papa-Lo, they also arrested Shotta. People assumed that, once they were locked up together, the two dons would kill each other. At first both of them gathered loyal men and plotted; however, eventually they agreed to talk to one another, on the basis that “when puss and dog kill one another the only one who win is Babylon.”
For the first time in the novel, it is made explicitly clear that the division between different gangs in the Kingston ghetto increases the power of the state over the masses. Papa-Lo and Shotta Sheriff’s hatred of each other is proven to be somewhat arbitrary, and they are actually united by their hatred of Babylon. Significantly, it is only their mutual imprisonment by the police that allows them to reach this conclusion.
Themes
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Papa-Lo and Shotta Sherrif began playing dominos together in prison. In January 1978, Papa-Lo was released, followed shortly after by Shotta. They met on the night of January 9, ritualistically put down their guns, and promised to end their battle with one another. Jacob Miller memorialized the occasion with a song called “Peace Treaty Special.” Only four days before, on January 5, soldiers from the Jamaica Defence Force opened fire on boys from Wang Gang who they had tricked into meeting them in Green Bay. 
The picture of Jamaica created in this chapter is quite different from that evoked by Barry Diflorio. Whereas Barry argued that Jamaica was once again becoming enveloped in a rising tide of violence and chaos, in West Kingston the biggest rivals have decided to abandon their animosity and work together.
Themes
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Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
During Papa-Lo’s first days in prison, he was beaten “round the clock.” However, Papa-Lo retaliated by targeting the families of the officers who beat him. Back in the present, Papa-Lo and Tony drive back down the coast, and Papa-Lo thinks about the second peace concert, which took place while the Singer was living in England. The Singer eventually came back to Jamaica, but behaved in a newly cautious way. The police do not catch the men involved in the shooting at the Singer’s house, so Papa-Lo goes after them himself.
As a result of the shooting, the Singer has become disconnected from Jamaica. Although he puts on a second peace concert, he can no longer be a true symbol of peace and unity for Jamaica, because some of his countrymen decided to murder him. Meanwhile, Papa-Lo’s revenge on those who shot the Singer doesn’t really solve anything, but only increases the violence. 
Themes
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Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
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One of the boys, Leggo Beast, was being hidden by his mother; Papa-Lo beat the woman and exiled her from Copenhagen City. He put Leggo Beast in a cell with others involved in the shooting, and burned all of the possessions in the mother’s house. Leggo Beast confessed details about the ambush, such as the fact that they were trained by Josey and a white man from the CIA. The white man told them that they were going to “save Jamaica from Chaos.” He also explained how Josey gave them cocaine and heroin in order to make them want to kill. Papa-Lo is not sure whether to believe the part about the CIA. He doesn’t understand why the CIA would care about the Singer enough to want him killed.
This is a moment at which it becomes clear that Papa-Lo is less intelligent than Josey. Unlike Josey, who has an intimate knowledge and understanding of the CIA’s actions and goals in Jamaica, Papa-Lo does not even know if it is plausible that the shooters could have been trained by the CIA. Papa-Lo’s ignorance and naïveté have allowed Josey to rise to power and take over as don of Copenhagen City.
Themes
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Papa-Lo asks Josey Wales for an explanation; Josey responds that Papa-Lo is stupid to believe anything Leggo Beast says, and adds that he was not involved with the attack on the Singer. Josey insists that if he had organized the attack, the Singer would not have come out alive. Papa-Lo is not sure whether to believe him, but either way is disturbed by how arrogant Josey has become.
Josey does not try particularly hard to convince Papa-Lo that he was not involved in trying to kill the Singer. The effort he does make seems less grounded in a desire to seem innocent than it does in Josey’s own pride––he doesn’t want Papa-Lo to think that he tried to kill the Singer and failed.
Themes
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Papa-Lo and Tony take Leggo Beast and two other men involved in the shooting to the garbage-filled McGregor Gully, which runs beneath the ghetto. The men are tied up and Tony kicks each of them to the ground. At the moment, the Singer and his manager arrive. Papa-Lo says that since the police don’t bring about justice, he has set up a court of his own. The Singer’s manager says that one of the men was involved in the shooting, but that there are some “crucial fellows” missing. The manager gives a long speech recalling the events of December 3, 1976. He explains that he was shot and lost consciousness, and was presumed dead.
Why the Singer wants to be involved in the kangaroo court remains unclear. He does not seem to be a vengeful person, and shows little interest in the outcome of Papa-Lo’s verdict. His manager is far more invested in justice being dealt than the Singer himself.
Themes
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Papa-Lo asks for the Singer’s thoughts, but the manager replies that he speaks for the Singer. The manager says that the Singer knows who shot him, and repeats that not all of the culprits are present. Leggo Beast claims that he was brainwashed by Josey Wales and the CIA. He then names the other perpetrators of the attack: Demus, Weeper, Heckle, and Josey. Papa-Lo has brought a woman to serve as a witness and asks her for her testimony. However, Papa-Lo really wants the Singer to talk. He knows it was Josey who personally shot the Singer, but the Singer says nothing. Suddenly, Leggo Beast admits that he was the one who shot Rita, the Singer’s wife.
Leggo Beast’s revelation may seem like the breakthrough the court was intended to produce, but Papa-Lo already knows that Josey was behind the attack, and the names of the other shooters mean little considering that most of them are already dead. This passage shows that the real reason Papa-Lo is conducting the court is to get the Singer to admit, in front of witnesses, that it was Josey who personally shot him––and thus who missed.
Themes
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One of the other tied-up men disagrees, saying it was Bam-Bam who shot Rita. Papa-Lo struggles to concentrate, his mind drifting away. He declares that the court finds the men guilty, and sentences them all to death. Papa-Lo offers his gun to the Singer, but the Singer simply turns and walks away. Papa-Lo shoots Leggo Beast, but the Singer doesn’t even turn around. After the Singer drives away, a disheveled man approaches Papa-Lo and begins speaking nonsensically, but Papa-Lo shakes his head and the man disappears. Tony puts nooses around the necks of the other two men and hangs them from a tree. The men die slowly.
Part of what makes the Singer seem so powerful is the fact that he almost never speaks, and when he does, the words he says rarely appear explicitly within the narrative. This makes him seem noble as well as mysterious––we can never be sure of what he is thinking. Meanwhile, Papa-Lo seems to be losing his grip on reality. It’s still unclear what the reason for this is. 
Themes
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Papa-Lo keeps seeing a spectral white man present with him. The bodies of the hanged men finally go limp. Papa-Lo becomes increasingly disoriented, unable to tell where he is, what year it is, and what is happening around him. As he and his men drive away from McGregory Gully, police pull them over for a “spot check.” The officers tell them to get out of the car so they can search it. They find a .38 revolver on the floor of the car, and suggest it could be the gun Papa-Lo and his crew used to fire at the police. Papa-Lo denies this, but immediately after, one of the officers shoots Papa-Lo in the head.  
In this passage it emerges that the reason why Papa-Lo is feeling so disorientated and keeps seeing people who aren’t really there is because he is about to die. As Jennings explained in the preface to this part of the novel, people who are about to die can see those who are already dead. Although Papa-Lo did not realize that he was about to die, he did experience a foreshadowing of his imminent death.
Themes
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The officers shoot Papa-Lo’s men as well, and Papa-Lo’s thoughts become increasingly scattered and nonsensical. He has visions of people he knows, including the Singer, as well as figures such as “the angel of death.” The officers shoot Papa-Lo again, this time in the heart. He wants to shout: “Cut off the toe.”
At the moment of death, Papa-Lo gains new insight into the present and future, and thus is able to see that the Singer will die from cancer of the toe––in part because he refuses to cut his toe off. Yet, as Jennings warned, the living do not listen to the advice of the dead.
Themes
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