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 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Alex is freaking out; he wonders if he is tripping, then assures himself he isn’t. He is at the Skyline hotel. Eight months ago, back in Brooklyn, a woman named Lynn made him choose between his book about Jamaica and her. Alex accused her of emotional manipulation. Now he regrets not choosing her. He calls Jamaica his “other girl” and thinks he fell for both of them for the same reason: because he knew it wouldn’t work out.  
Once again, Jamaica is characterized as a seductress with whom white American men cannot help falling in love. Clearly, Alex’s “relationship” with Jamaica is so intense that it causes him distress, and prevents him from living a normal life.
Themes
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
There is a man sitting on the left side of the bed in Alex’s hotel room. Alex hopes that if he closes his eyes and opens them the man will disappear, but this does not happen. He rehearses things to say to the man in his head and tells himself to get it together. Alex’s informer, Priest, recently told him to get a gun or at least a knife, but Alex refused. After, Alex heard that no one in the ghetto is afraid of Priest because he accidentally shot off his own penis with a gun.
At this point it might seem as if Alex is also about to die, considering he is seeing an inexplicable figure who may or may not exist in reality. This appears even more likely given that, as Prince warns, Alex is in immediate danger. Alex’s decision not to arm himself could be seen as admirable, but perhaps it’s simply naïve. Because he is white and American, he assumes he is immune from the kind of violence Jamaicans face, particularly those involved in gang business.
Themes
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
The day before Alex went to interview Shotta Sherrif about the peace treaty, and even though by then he’d spent a lot of time in “deep Kingston,” the prospect of walking into the Eight Lanes still made him nervous. He was surprised by how deprived the ghetto looked; he expected the PNP to provide more for their supporters after they were reelected. Alex has spoken to the Singer about the shooting at his house; however, when Alex asked who exactly shot him, the Singer smiled and said this was “top secret.”  
This passage suggests that things have actually changed significantly for Alex since the last part of the novel. Whereas previously he was shown to be fumbling and incompetent, at this point he has spent a lot of time in West Kingston and has even spoken to the Singer. The Singer’s smile, meanwhile, makes his decision not to reveal who shot him even more intriguing.
Themes
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
Alex wanted to ask Shotta Sherrif if the peace treaty was still valid after the recent spate of murders between JLP and PNP boys, which originally began over a girl. However, he then adds: “Of course I could never ask a question like that.” Alex did find out about Shotta’s time in prison with Papa-Lo. At the end of the interview, Shotta told Alex that the treaty simply had to work. A few days before, Alex had interviewed a teenage member of Wang Gang called Junior Soul. Junior Soul told him about a bloody conflict between Wang Gang and the Jamaica Defence Force. After the interview, Alex got more information on the conflict from Bill Bilson, a Jamaican journalist. 
Not only has Alex now gotten access to the Singer, he is drawing on a diversity of sources who have intimate knowledge of what is actually happening in Kingston. In this sense, Alex may be proving wrong Demus’s warning that whoever wrote the story of Jamaica in the 1970s would misrepresent the reality because they weren’t actually there. Although Alex will always be an outsider, he is drawing on the voices of those on the inside.
Themes
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
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The stranger on Alex’s bed moves, sitting on Alex’s foot. Alex is momentarily terrified that the man is going to shoot him. Alex returns to his investigation of the peace treaty, explaining that it all began when a soldier shot “some kids” early in 1978. Priest explained that the peace treaty involved all parties promising they wouldn’t give up information to the police or government anymore. When Alex interviewed Papa-Lo, he was evasive, but admitted that “the peace over.” However, he refused to clarify what this meant.
In some ways the name “peace treaty” is misleading. The deal is not just an agreement to cease conflict between the rival gangs, but also a promise to act in solidarity against the police and government. This is a decidedly radical act, and shows that peace is not necessarily passive (promising not to do something) but can be a form of action as well.  
Themes
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
As Alex was leaving Papa-Lo, he walked into two men, who took him to Josey Wales’ house. Josey pointed out that Alex had been asking a lot of questions and running his mouth. He said that people like Alex “don’t see much” and asked him why he had been in Jamaica so long. Josey mentioned Aisha, which made Alex panic. Josey then told Alex that the peace treaty was a joke, that peace is dangerous, and that peace makes people “careless.”
At this point in the novel, Josey appears to be all-powerful, as shown by the fact that his knowledge about Alex precedes Alex’s decision to come and interview him. On the other hand, Josey is arguably wrong about Alex’s inability to “see much.”
Themes
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Alex asked Josey how the Singer would “react to all this,” but Josey brushed him off, saying people should leave the Singer alone. Josey said that thanks to Papa-Lo, people are “living fine in the ghetto,” with a proper sewer system. However, Josey went on to note that in prison, everything stops making sense: “black turn into white. Up turn into down. Puss and dog turn friend.” Alex mentioned the fact that the Singer was shot in the chest, and Josey asked how he knew that. Alex dodged the question. Alex knows details about the shooting that no one else does, because he “caught him [the Singer] on a lucky day in London.”
Immediately, Josey’s statement that Alex does not “see much” is disproven. Indeed, Alex is one of the only people apart from Josey and the Singer himself who knows the details of the moment in which the Singer was shot. Immediately, Alex becomes a threat to Josey, if only because Josey is so proud that he will do everything to keep the fact that he shot the Singer a secret.
Themes
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
Alex’s foot has gone to sleep underneath the man in his bed. He sees that the man has a gun and panics. He begins praying but stops himself. The phone rings; the man jumps and drops his gun. As he reaches to get it, Alex kicks him, and the man grabs Alex’s foot and then his neck. The man chokes him, and Alex desperately reaches for the letter opener lying beside the bed. He stabs the man in the neck, realizing immediately that he’s plunged the letter opener too deep. Blood spurts out. The man stands up, staggers for a moment, and then falls to the ground.
Up until this moment, Alex was not presented as a particularly tough character and the likelihood of him committing an act of violence—let alone murder—was low. Of course, it is fitting that Alex should commit this murder in a rather hapless manner, without even intending to kill the stranger in his bed.
Themes
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon