A Brief History of Seven Killings

A Brief History of Seven Killings

by

Marlon James

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Cocaine Symbol Icon

The novel is set across the period in which cocaine use became increasingly common in the Americas, beginning in the 1970s and stretching into the 1990s. This growth in popularity vastly increased the wealth and power of gangs like Storm Posse who were involved in transporting cocaine from Colombia and distributing it in the United States. The shady origins of the drug––and of the power and wealth it creates––are alluded to through the many mentions of the cartels in Medellín and Cali (both cities in Colombia), which lurk in the background of the novel without ever being depicted explicitly. Cocaine use is presented as being almost ubiquitous among certain groups of characters, particularly the male residents of the Kingston ghetto and, later, those living in the corresponding “ghetto” of Bushwick, Brooklyn. Cocaine creates feelings of euphoria, and use of the drug by the poor and disenfranchised is thus shown to be a way for these oppressed populations to escape the grim reality of their lives. At the same time, cocaine can also inspire feelings of violent aggression, which is why Josey Wales and Weeper give it to their crew of gunmen in advance of the shooting at the Singer’s house. In large amounts, cocaine can also create delirium, particularly when it is freebased (heated and inhaled) and smoked in the form of crack.

However, perhaps the most important aspect of cocaine in relation to the novel is its addictive quality. Several characters in the novel develop a cocaine dependency, including Bam-Bam, Demus, and––most significantly––Weeper. Addiction to cocaine symbolizes the dangerous side of pleasure and desire. While Weeper spends the novel frightened by his own homosexual desire, ironically it is his desire for cocaine that is far more threatening to his well-being. After Eubie finds out that Weeper is using crack, he warns Josey that this will inhibit Weeper’s ability to effectively conduct business, and secretly decides to kill Weeper. In a potent twist, Weeper manages to trick John-John into injecting him with pure cocaine rather than shooting him dead with a gun. Weeper thus chooses to be killed by a substance he loves and desires, again emphasizing the twinned danger and allure of such desire.

Cocaine Quotes in A Brief History of Seven Killings

The A Brief History of Seven Killings quotes below all refer to the symbol of Cocaine. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Riverhead edition of A Brief History of Seven Killings published in 2014.
Part 1, Chapter 8 Quotes

Nobody who kill a police going to hell but is something else to kill the singer. I let Josey Wales tell me that the Singer is a hypocrite, and he playing both sides taking everybody for idiot. I let Josey Wales tell me that he have bigger plans and is high time we done be ghetto stooge for white man who live uptown and don’t care about we until election time. I let Josey Wales tell me that the Singer is a PNP stooge who bow for the Prime Minister. I let Josey Wales tell me to shoot up three more line and I won’t care who.

Related Characters: Demus (speaker), The Singer, Josey Wales, Michael Manley
Related Symbols: Guns, Cocaine
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 4, Chapter 17 Quotes

- Like how your boy Weeper is a user.

- Weeper sniffing coke from as early as '75, that not nothing new.

- But new it is, Josey. Now him smoking crack and you and me know that crack is not coke. Can a man do good business even when him deh pon coke? Of course. Every man me know in the music biz a lick coke. Hookers and blow them call it, my youth. Back then the biz did even have a sort of class. But crack is different business. Every single dealer who switch from coke to crack mash up. You can’t hold a single thought on crack. You can't do no fucking business. Crack is you business.

Related Characters: Josey Wales (speaker), Eubie (speaker), Weeper
Related Symbols: Cocaine
Page Number: 551
Explanation and Analysis:
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Cocaine Symbol Timeline in A Brief History of Seven Killings

The timeline below shows where the symbol Cocaine appears in A Brief History of Seven Killings. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 6
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Weeper says that doing cocaine was the only way he could bring himself to have sex in prison, but Josey... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 8
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...the winnings disappeared, and Demus was left with nothing. At this point, Josey gives Demus cocaine, a gun, and money in exchange for killing people Josey wants dead. Demus thinks this... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 10
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...believes in evolution, which provokes arguments between him and Josey. Josey hates when Weeper does cocaine while they’re “in the middle of business.” It makes him paranoid, and as they talk... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 11
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...join the PNP, thereby turning the “Eight Lanes into Nine Lanes.” Weeper and Bam-Bam freebase crack and drive to Rema. In the car Bam-Bam feels euphoric, horny, and violent all at... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...Bam-Bam vomit. Bam-Bam doesn’t care what he does as long as Weeper keeps giving him crack. (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 16:
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
...nights ago, another man in the crew, Matic, had a seizure while trying to freebase cocaine and died. Each of the remaining men has been trained to shoot M16 rifles. They... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 17
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
...in the shack is “going mad and ting.” Bam-Bam is screaming, Heckle is searching for cocaine, and Funky Chicken is shaking and scratching himself from heroin withdrawal. Demus guesses it is... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Josey then opens one box filled with guns and another box filled with cocaine, and the men rush to do lines. Demus starts to feel invincible, like he could... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 19
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
...monologue, Demus describes speeding away in the Datsun and feeling himself coming down from the cocaine. Heckle begins saying that they are all going to burn in hell, and Weeper forces... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 20
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
...sent home,” and he realizes that Josey missed. Bam-Bam is desperate for a line of cocaine. He goes to the park where the Smile Jamaica concert will be held and realizes... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 21
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
...can’t remember the last time he ate or bathed, and he is still desperate for cocaine. He resolves to flee to another part of Jamaica, and compares himself to a runaway... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 3
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...they were going to “save Jamaica from Chaos.” He also explained how Josey gave them cocaine and heroin in order to make them want to kill. Papa-Lo is not sure whether... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 2
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...Josey is landing on a plane from Jamaica. Josey is coming to see a particular crack house in Brooklyn so he can scope out the people selling in it and report... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 3
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...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.... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 6
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...that Weeper would not come after him. Tristan then explains that Shotta Sherrif stole the cocaine stash of a man whose brother was in Wang Gang. He was killed by Wang... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 9
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...has not been able to get in touch with Weeper. Eubie is alarmed because six crackheads from Brooklyn showed up in the Bronx looking to buy, saying they “couldn’t deal with... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 13
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
Weeper is in Bushwick. A woman is yelling at him, saying that a nearby “crack ho” offered to give her 12-year-old son a blowjob in exchange for his pocket money.... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...goes inside the house and finds one of his dealers lying on the ground, smoking crack. He tells the dealer to get up, and he replies that he won’t take orders... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 17
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...does the same to him. Eubie goes on to say that Weeper has started using crack. Josey tells him they need to go to Bushwick immediately, even though their food has... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 21
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Eubie and Josey walk over to the crack house, and Eubie excuses himself to pee. While he is gone, a crackhead comes up... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 24
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
...asks John-John what Griselda is paying him and offers to double it. He offers John-John cocaine, girls, or boys, depending on what he desires. However, John-John indicates that he’s not being... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...before he pulls the trigger Weeper shouts: “Wait!” He asks for one last hit of cocaine before he dies, and tells John-John that there is a bag nearby ready to go.... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...realize that it was actually Eubie. Weeper asks John-John to help him shoot up some cocaine, and guides him through the process, as John-John has never done it before. John-John sticks... (full context)
Part 5, Chapter 4
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...wasn’t mysterious; Weeper simply overdosed. Doctor Love asks why Weeper would inject himself with pure cocaine, and Josey suggests it might not have been an accident. However, he won’t develop this... (full context)
Part 5, Chapter 9
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
The men tell Alex to skip to the part where he discusses the crack house. Alex reads the description of the house itself, but the men protest that they... (full context)
Part 5, Chapter 11
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...already knows that Alex’s source is Tristan Phillips. Eubie tells him that Tristan is a crack addict now, and asks why Alex waited so long to publish the story. Alex explains... (full context)