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 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Tristan is in prison, talking to Alex Pierce. He tells Alex he has been bribing the guards with smuggled crack to let him keep his dreadlocks. Alex is taping their conversation, and asks about 1966. Tristan refuses to talk about this. Instead he tells Alex about the books he has been reading from the Rikers library. Tristan then tells Alex that he will never understand peace, war, or the beginnings of Copenhagen City without knowing about a place called Balaclava. Balaclava was a ghetto that housed 5,000 people and had only two bathrooms and no running water. Sewage and blood from the slaughterhouse flowed in the streets. Tristan was born there in 1949. His parents abandoned him and left him with the difficulty of looking “half coolie.”
Tristan proves that the problems that plague West Kingston existed long before the turmoil of the 1970s. Indeed, according to Tristan’s description, life in Balaclava was far worse than life in the Eight Lanes or Copenhagen City. This provides a new angle on the impact of gangsters like Shotta Sherrif, Papa-Lo, and Josey on the communities in which they live. Although they commit frequent acts of violence, they also work to improve the infrastructure and resources available in the ghetto.
Themes
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Balaclava was eventually bulldozed, and Tristan was imprisoned on a false accusation for five years. He emerged in 1972 to a whole different country. Buntin-Banton and Dishrag were the “top-ranking PNP dons in Kingston, maybe Jamaica,” and anyone who wanted a job had to go through them. However, the police killed the two dons, and Shotta Sherrif took their place. Tristan argues that the PNP was not ambitious enough, and only ever focused on defending their territory from the JLP. Josey Wales, on the other hand, had ambition.  
From a certain perspective, Josey is indeed ambitious. He is ruthlessly power-hungry and, although money is not discussed much explicitly in the novel, presumably also skilled at acquiring wealth. On the other hand, he has no ambitions for the ghetto or Jamaica overall. He is deeply pessimistic, and does not believe Jamaica can––or should––become a peaceful place.
Themes
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
When the peace treaty took place, Shotta Sherrif asked Tristan to be “chairman of the peace council.” Shotta and Papa-Lo went to England to persuade the Singer to put on a second peace concert. Tristan drifts off while talking about Shotta Sherrif, and asks Alex to stop recording. Back in 1978, Tristan realized that someone had shipped guns to Kingston disguised as lighting equipment for the concert. Tristan questioned Weeper about it, who replied that they both were in “the peace runnings,” but that they were going about it in a different way. In Rikers, Tristan asks Alex why he can’t go back to Jamaica.
By this point in the novel, we know that the desire for peace is always charged in Jamaica, to the point that peace efforts can perversely lead to even more chaos and violence. Weeper’s claim to be in “the peace runnings” is true if one interprets peace as something that can be instilled from above, by giving those in power absolute control over the people. However, this is not the definition that the peace council is working with.
Themes
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon