A Brief History of Seven Killings

A Brief History of Seven Killings

by

Marlon James

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on A Brief History of Seven Killings can help.

A Brief History of Seven Killings: Part 4, Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Part Four is set on August 14, 1985. Dorcas Palmer thinks about girls who immigrate to America and still speak like “dutty whore” from Jamaica. Dorcas has been with the God Bless Employment Agency for three years, and often sees these girls when she goes into the agency’s office. She lives in a fifth-floor walk-up, and stays with the agency so she isn’t evicted. She is about to be assigned to a family called the Colthirsts, who are clearly distinguished in some way. Dorcas is sure she will be well-suited to the job, as she is a high-school educated woman who grew up in Havendale St Andrew, a respectable suburb in Kingston.  
Dorcas’s comments about the other girls from Jamaica indicate that this chapter has shifted location and is taking place in the United States. So far, the experience of immigrating to America has been represented in an aspirational way, particularly through Nina/Kim’s dreams of escaping Jamaica in pursuit of a better, more comfortable life. However, the reality of Dorcas’s life so far does not appear to be particularly comfortable.
Themes
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Dorcas sometimes worries about the fact that she has nothing to worry about. She observes that spending 10 minutes in Times Square makes her miss West Kingston, though she would never go back. When she first came across God Bless Employment Agency, it was obvious it was run by Jamaicans. She was desperate, as she had previously survived by blackmailing her American ex-boyfriend in Arkansas and threatening to tell his wife about their affair.
It is made pretty clear here that Dorcas is the new identity Nina/Kim has assumed by the fact that she is calling and threatening a married ex-boyfriend in Arkansas, who we can safely assume is Chuck. Dorcas has mixed feelings about her new life. She is worried about not being worried, and misses Jamaica but swears she will not return. 
Themes
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
The first job Dorcas was assigned through the agency was to take care of an elderly woman who had been left lying in her own feces and urine. However, Dorcas quit when the woman’s middle-aged son began exposing himself in front of her. The next job also involved looking after another elderly woman who died two weeks later. The next week Dorcas went to a Jamaican club called Star Track in Brooklyn. A Rasta approached her, saying it looked like she needed a backrub. Dorcas could tell he wasn’t “a real Jamaican,” although they slept together anyway. He left his number but they never saw each other again.
Like Alex and Barry, Dorcas now has a sense of what it means to distinguish between an authentic and inauthentic Jamaica. Of course, she needed to move away from her homeland to experience an inauthentic version of it, as it seems safe to assume that every Jamaican living in Jamaica is indeed a “real” Jamaican.
Themes
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Dorcas arrives at the Colthirsts’ apartment, which is on East 86th Street between Madison and Park. A man opens the door and says: “You must be the new girl they hired to wipe my ass.”
The final scene in this chapter confirms the impression that Dorcas’s life in the United States is not as glamorous as she likely hoped it would be.
Themes
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Get the entire A Brief History of Seven Killings LitChart as a printable PDF.
A brief history of seven killings.pdf.medium