A Brief History of Seven Killings

A Brief History of Seven Killings

by

Marlon James

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Guns Symbol Icon

Guns are ubiquitous in the world of the novel, highlighting the totally pervasive violence of life in the Kingston ghetto (and then, later in the novel, in New York City). As weapons that allow people to be killed quickly and easily, guns encapsulate the casual attitude that many of the characters have toward violence and the sense that, in the ghetto, life is treated as disposable. The fact that characters like Bam-Bam are given guns as young teenagers highlights how easy it is for ordinary people in Kingston, some of whom are still children, to wield the power of taking the life of another. Alongside this, guns are also an important symbol in relation to the theme of masculinity and sexuality. Guns are often thought of as phallic symbols, meaning that they both resemble penises and have cultural connotations related to male genitalia. The idea of guns as phallic is illustrated through Bam-Bam and Demus’s interrelated desires to shoot and kill after getting high on cocaine. Many of the male characters in the novel experience their own desire in a violent way, and the will to shoot someone and the will to have sex sometimes appear as different versions of the same impulse. Finally, supplying guns––like supplying cocaine––is used by some characters as a tool of asserting control over people. For example, Josey gives his crew guns and cocaine in exchange for them killing targets of his choice. These guns are originally supplied by Louis Johnson and Doctor Love, highlighting the fact that Josey himself is under the influence of these figures and thus of the CIA.

Guns Quotes in A Brief History of Seven Killings

The A Brief History of Seven Killings quotes below all refer to the symbol of Guns. 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 3 Quotes

I remember when that was the only place any man, no matter what side you on, could escape a bullet. The only place in Kingston where the only thing that hit you was music. But the fucking people soil it up with bad vibes, better if they did just go into the studio one morning and shit all over the console, me no going say who.

Related Characters: Papa-Lo (speaker), The Singer
Related Symbols: The Singer’s House, Guns
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 1, Chapter 5 Quotes

Gun weight is a different kind of weight. Or maybe it be something else, a feeling that whenever you hold a gun is really the gun holding you.

Related Characters: Bam-Bam (speaker)
Related Symbols: Guns
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:
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:
Get the entire A Brief History of Seven Killings LitChart as a printable PDF.
A Brief History of Seven Killings PDF

Guns Symbol Timeline in A Brief History of Seven Killings

The timeline below shows where the symbol Guns appears in A Brief History of Seven Killings. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 1
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
...he comes close it feels like the whole world is a ghetto. Two men bring guns to the ghetto and teach Bam-Bam how to use them. (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
In 1971, the Singer first appeared on TV. That same year, Bam-Bam shot a gun for the first time, at the age of 10. Back then, Bam-Bam’s father ran home... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...while one of the men, Funnyboy, forces Bam-Bam’s father to give him oral sex at gunpoint before killing him. Funnyboy then shoots Bam-Bam’s mother, whose body falls on top of her... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...has come from the Eight Lanes, but they let him join them, giving him a gun on his 12th birthday and nicknaming him “Bam-Bam.” Another man called Josey Wales teaches Bam-Bam... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 3
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...and had to ask the Singer for money. When he refused to pay, they drew guns on him, although the Singer managed to talk them into putting them away. The Singer... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 5
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Two men bring luxury food items and guns to the ghetto in advance of the election. The Singer visits Copenhagen City, and after... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Josey Wales comes to visit Bam-Bam, and gives him a gun and asks if he is ready to be a man. Whereas Papa-Lo is a meticulous... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 8
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...from Trench Town, and Demus was released. Ever since this incident, Demus has carried a gun. Demus was involved with the group that fixed the horse races. He hoped that it... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...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 is too... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 11
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Everyone in Bam-Bam’s life has been behaving differently since Bam-Bam got a gun. Bam-Bam’s girlfriend is newly cautious around him. There are rumors that Papa-Lo went to England... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...and forces him to drink his own urine. Yet when the white men who bring guns come to the ghetto, they speak to Josey, not Papa-Lo. The Echo Squad, who guard... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 16:
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
...Each of the remaining men has been trained to shoot M16 rifles. They have 21 guns, and 840 bullets. Demus pictures himself descending on the Singer’s house, bringing death with him.  (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 13
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...that there was recently a meeting set up by the PNP in which soldiers drew guns on Michael Manley, before backing down. Barry tells Louis to stop getting involved in the... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 14
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...him, and police and soldiers jump out of three jeeps. The soldiers point their machine guns at Papa-Lo; meanwhile, Josey does not come out of the house. The police begin beating... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 17
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... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 19
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
...all going to burn in hell, and Weeper forces him out of the car at gunpoint. At the gully outside Trench Town Weeper gets out of the car and starts running;... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Demus has lost his gun. He thinks about the fact that there were no guards outside the Singer’s house, which... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 3
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...after by Shotta. They met on the night of January 9, ritualistically put down their guns, and promised to end their battle with one another. Jacob Miller memorialized the occasion with... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...the court finds the men guilty, and sentences them all to death. Papa-Lo offers his gun to the Singer, but the Singer simply turns and walks away. Papa-Lo shoots Leggo Beast,... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...a .38 revolver on the floor of the car, and suggest it could be the gun Papa-Lo and his crew used to fire at the police. Papa-Lo denies this, but immediately... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 4
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...tells himself to get it together. Alex’s informer, Priest, recently told him to get a gun or at least a knife, but Alex refused. After, Alex heard that no one in... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
...to sleep underneath the man in his bed. He sees that the man has a gun and panics. He begins praying but stops himself. The phone rings; the man jumps and... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 5
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...from Jamaica. At 6 am, he and Tony arrived at the airport. Tony had a gun poised, ready to shoot the Singer, when Josey told him to stop. (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...and Costa Rica. Mr. Clark left, and Doctor Love and Josey discussed a shipment of guns that recently arrived. (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 3
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...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... (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
...A-Plus then drove to the house Weeper was staying in, tackled Weeper and pressed a gun to his head. Tristan was about to shoot him when another man who was in... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 8
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
...it. Griselda slaps him, and the men in the tropical shirts run in, pointing their guns at him. Griselda says: “This is what you gonna do for me.” (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...his wallet. He forces the man to stay and have sex with him again at gunpoint. Griselda has instructed him to kill a Jamaican who works with Doctor Love. This man... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 13
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...a blowjob enters and tries to take the dead dealer’s pipe, but he points his gun at her and she flees. Weeper puts the crack rocks and pipe in his pocket... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 14
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
...and a “fucking dirty little faggot.” Although John-John was still very young, he pulled a gun on his father and taunted him. He left home after that. In the present, John-John... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 21
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...pee. While he is gone, a crackhead comes up to Josey and demands money at gunpoint. Josey hands him a few bills, and the man pulls the trigger. It is a... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 22
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...out of the house into the nighttime darkness; Weeper and Eubie follow. Josey puts the gun to Weeper’s head, pauses, and then drops it and walks away. Eubie turns to look... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 24
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
John-John presses the gun to Weeper’s head, but before he pulls the trigger Weeper shouts: “Wait!” He asks for... (full context)