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 4, Chapter 19 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Ken furiously questions Dorcas about the book. Dorcas tells him to calm down and reminds him that she doesn’t owe him any explanation. She then claims she “saw it in a bookstore and was curious.” Eventually, however, Dorcas reveals that she stole the identity of a Jamaican immigrant to America who died in Queens on June 15, 1979. She explains that it was quite simple to get a copy of Dorcas’s birth certificate, that her family are all still in Jamaica, and that they were too poor to come for her funeral. Dorcas then mentions that before becoming Dorcas Palmer, she was known as Kim Clarke.
Ken is the first person with whom Dorcas/Nina/Kim has been completely honest. As before, Ken’s totally unguarded nature encourages Dorcas to let her own guard down and simply be herself around him. The fact that she easily assumed the identity of another Jamaican immigrant is also a clever play on the idea of Dorcas as an “everywoman”; her identity is easily replaceable because there are so many like her. 
Themes
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
Ken asks if Dorcas is an American citizen, and she replies that she isn’t. She has a Jamaican passport, but not under her real name. Ken tells her that her story is “the most exciting thing I’ve heard since I can’t even remember,” and asks what she was running away from. He guesses that the person she’s fleeing must be in Jamaica, and Dorcas replies that she’s been in America since 1979 and he hasn’t tracked her down yet. She explains that she chose to live in New York because a big city provides anonymity, there is a lot of work, and when she is not working she goes to the library or MoMA. At the moment, Dorcas is working on building a good credit score.
This passage returns us to the idea of white American men being seduced by the excitement of Jamaica and Jamaicans. It is easy for Ken to be entertained by Dorcas’s story because he has never had to suffer the reality of poverty, violence, and hopelessness. Dorcas does not view her own life as exciting; in fact, throughout the novel she is confronted by boredom more than any other emotion.
Themes
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
Dorcas tells Ken that he should go home soon. He goes to the bathroom, and Dorcas finds a note in his pocket that asks anyone who finds it to call a certain number immediately. Dorcas calls, and Mr. Colthirst answers. Dorcas explains that Ken insisted on leaving the house, and gives her address. Dorcas walks over to the bathroom door and tells Ken that she called his son, and that he is coming to collect him. However, Ken now can’t remember who Dorcas is. He locks himself in the bathroom and tells her to “get the fuck away.”
There is a surprising level of similarity between Ken and Dorcas, considering that in many ways they could not be more different. Just as Dorcas decided halfway through her sexual encounter with a Jamaican man that she no longer wanted to have sex with him and forced him to leave with a cutlass, so has Ken now suddenly decided to push Dorcas away (although this is apparently because he has suddenly lost his memories of Dorcas, not because of a change of whim).
Themes
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon