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 5, Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
At Beth Israel, Millicent sees a Jamaican man whose wife thinks Millicent is his nurse. In reality, Millicent is assigned to the ER and normally doesn’t spend any time in the ICU, but has been coming down just to get a look at the man. Four of the Jamaicans who were brought into Beth Israel with gunshot wounds died, many more were treated and sent home, and the one with the wife is in critical condition. The wife asks if he will improve, but Millicent simply defers to Doctor Stephenson, a handsome blond man who has just walked in.
Millicent’s fascination with the injured Jamaican man is risky, considering she is trying to conceal her true identity and even the fact that she is Jamaican. However, her curiosity over the man is evidently too powerful to be restrained. She cannot help but linger by his bedside even though he has been unconscious since he arrived at the hospital.
Themes
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
Doctor Stephenson asks what Millicent is doing in the ICU, and Millicent struggles to answer. However, as she tries to leave, the doctor says he might need her. He tells the wife that they will need to run more tests, and when she responds, he asks Millicent to translate into her “native tongue.” After Millicent explains that the wife is speaking English, the doctor proceeds to update her on the man’s condition.
Like many of the other white men in the novel, Doctor Stephenson appears to believe that black people (particularly Jamaicans) are ignorant, when in fact he is ignorant about black Jamaican culture. In this instance, he thinks that the wounded man’s wife can’t speak in English, when it is in fact he who cannot understand her.
Themes
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Once Doctor Stephenson leaves, the wife asks where in Jamaica Millicent is from, saying she sounds like she’s from uptown Kingston. Millicent tries not to answer, but this annoys the wife, who asks why she keeps coming in to look at her husband. Millicent tries to say she’s just curious, but the woman won’t believe her, and asks to hear the truth about her husband’s condition. Millicent eventually admits that if he ever talks again he will sound like a four-year-old, and that he might not even be able to “hold a cup again,” let alone walk. 
The woman’s ability to know the exact part of Kingston in which Millicent grew up suggests that Millicent is less skilled at hiding her identity than she would like to think. Millicent’s decision to be honest with the woman about her husband’s condition suggests that Millicent may be finally ready to end her duplicity and embrace a more honest existence.
Themes
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Suddenly, Millicent asks if Josey Wales’s gang shot the woman’s husband. The wife replies that it was Storm Posse who shot up the club, but that Josey Wales is in prison, about to be extradited to America. She explains that this is all the result of Benjy Wales being murdered. She tells Millicent that her husband was a Ranking Don.
This passage indicates that Millicent’s interest in the wounded man is all because she is trying to figure out how he is connected to Josey, and—by extension––if there is any chance that Josey is in New York and could find her.
Themes
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
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