A Brief History of Seven Killings

A Brief History of Seven Killings

by

Marlon James

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The Singer’s House Symbol Icon

At the beginning of the novel, the Singer’s house––fittingly located at 56 Hope Road––is a symbol of peace, unity, and optimism. Papa-Lo explains that it is the only place in Kingston where people can escape violence, and also the only place where people from opposing political parties mingle together, with gangsters, politicians, aristocrats, musicians, and celebrities all rubbing shoulders together. The house is an oasis of calm and a symbol of hope of what Jamaica could be if it were no longer plagued by conflict and violence. Of course, the optimism encapsulated by the house is closely related to that inspired by the Singer himself. The Singer grew up in the ghetto yet chooses to shun violence, instead focusing on messages of black power, unity, and love. While in this sense he at times seems like a unique individual completely at odds with the rest of the country, his house serves as a reminder that he is not the only Jamaican who wants to unite the country and create positive change. The other characters who show up at the house––even if they are not as committed to peace as the Singer––are at least able to momentarily put aside their differences and envision a better existence.

Yet this optimism is irrevocably tarnished when Josey Wales and his gang descend on the Singer’s house and shoot everyone inside. Suddenly, the Singer’s house is no longer a place of peace and neutrality, but just another part of Kingston afflicted by violence and instability. This corresponds to the Singer’s new attitude of suspicion and unease in the wake of the shooting. On the other hand, there is something remarkable about the fact that every person in the house survives the shooting, particularly given that Josey and his crew are some of the most infamously lethal gangsters in Jamaica. The shocking survival of the shooting victims suggests that the Singer’s house has an almost magical power to repel violence and protect its inhabitants.

The Singer’s House Quotes in A Brief History of Seven Killings

The A Brief History of Seven Killings quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Singer’s House. 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:
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The Singer’s House Symbol Timeline in A Brief History of Seven Killings

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Singer’s House appears in A Brief History of Seven Killings. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 3
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...Recently, when the Singer was abroad, young men from Jungle, another ghetto, began scheming inside the Singer’s house . The house used to be the only place of neutrality and peace in Kingston,... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
The men who went into the Singer’s house ended up fixing the horse races, but they messed it up and had to ask... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 4
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Nina is at the gate of the Singer’s house , where she is told by a security guard that nobody can come in except... (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
...is desperate to move to Miami. She crosses the road to the bus stop outside the Singer’s house , and has an urge to shout to him, saying she needs his help. (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 7
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Nina is still waiting across the road from the Singer’s house . She wishes Kimmy would visit their parents, and wants to make a plan with... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 8
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...too cowardly to choose. It is 6 pm, and in 24 hours they will go the Singer’s house(full context)
Part 1, Chapter 9:
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...that there were eleven CIA operatives working in Jamaica, but by June seven had left. The Singer’s house is being guarded by a posse called the Echo Squad. Alex is 27 and wants... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 11
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...come to the ghetto, they speak to Josey, not Papa-Lo. The Echo Squad, who guard the Singer’ house , are “bad man on PNP payroll.” The Singer thinks he understands the ghetto because... (full context)
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...him, but denies that he wants any of “that nasty batty boy business.” Bam-Bam watches the Singer’s house . Every night at around 9 pm the Singer takes a break and goes into... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 15
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...is still at the bus stop. She feels like she has gone mad, waiting outside the Singer’s house hoping he will help her and her family get American visas. She hadn’t planned on... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 16:
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
...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 2
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Papa-Lo recalls a rehearsal at the Singer’s house a few weeks ago, when a white boy appeared “out of nowhere like magic trick.”... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 3
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Josey sees Nina across the road from the Singer’s house and wonders if she is a prostitute, or just another woman in love with the... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 4
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
...kill her if she doesn’t shut up. They have been idling in the car outside the Singer’s house ; Barry’s wife notices and asks what they are doing there. Eventually they drive away,... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 7
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
...little hypocrite” for having sex with the Singer—a friend of Kimmy’s saw Nina waiting outside the Singer’s house the night before. The conversation quickly descends into an argument, with the sisters hurling insults... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 11
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...sure if he believes this, but knows that there is something fishy going on at the Singer’s house . Aisha left Alex’s room four hours ago, and Alex is left feeling listless. Mark... (full context)
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...back to the United States for him. He asks if Alex wants to come to the Singer’s house that night, and promises to pick him up at 7 pm. (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 12
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Nina is about to leave for the Singer’s house when her mother calls and says to come to Nina’s parents’ house immediately. When she... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 15
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...in the car with Mark Lansing, who is a terrible driver. They pull up outside the Singer’s house , but the guard will not let them inside. He says that they’re not letting... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 16
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...furious with her father, with Kimmy, and with the Singer. Yet she is walking toward the Singer’s house , determined to get visas for herself and her family. She feels like she is... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 17
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Masculinity, Sexuality, and Homophobia Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...and fuck the devil.” The men get into two white Datsuns and drive uptown to the Singer’s house . On the drive, a blue car joins them, going in the same direction. (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 18
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
This chapter is written in verse. As the men drive to the Singer’s house , Bam-Bam’s thoughts are fragmented. He wants to “fuck fuck fuck” and “start shooting.” They... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 19
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...has lost his gun. He thinks about the fact that there were no guards outside the Singer’s house , which seems to indicate that the guards knew the attack was being planned. Demus... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 20
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
...after everything. He does not know how much time has passed since the night at the Singer’s house . He remembers being confused about why Josey was shooting at him after they drove... (full context)
Part 3, Sir Arthur George Jennings
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
After Bam-Bam dies, he does not at first realize he’s dead, and walks to the Singer’s house . Jennings explains that people who are just about to die can see the dead.... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 1
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...found. She sees a picture of the Singer in the newspaper and remembers waiting outside his house . She started running on December 3, 1976 and never stopped. In her mind, she... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 3
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...newly cautious way. The police do not catch the men involved in the shooting at the Singer’s house , so Papa-Lo goes after them himself. (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 4
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...supporters after they were reelected. Alex has spoken to the Singer about the shooting at his house ; however, when Alex asked who exactly shot him, the Singer smiled and said this... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 5
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
After the attack on the Singer’s house , Peter Nasser called Josey and furiously asked how he could be “the first man... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
It seems as if Papa-Lo is trying to do “penance” for the shooting at the Singer’s house . Knowing this, Josey gave him Leggo Beast so Papa-Lo could “make an example” out... (full context)
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...is more important. Josey killed some of the men he hired for the attack on the Singer’s house , and the Rastas took care of the rest. However, Heckle disappeared. If Josey had... (full context)
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
...him that the Singer took Heckle on tour with him. Apparently Heckle had gone to the Singer’s house and begged for forgiveness. The Singer obliged and proceeded to bring Heckle into his “inner... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 6
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Jamaican Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...Tristan continues with his story, explaining that the peace council had a real office in the Singer’s house . Once, the Singer saw Josey Wales leaving the peace council office, and furiously asked... (full context)
Part 5, Chapter 8
Violence vs. Peace Theme Icon
Politics, Power, and Corruption Theme Icon
Witness and Storytelling Theme Icon
...moment, Millicent has a sudden memory of when, as Nina, she witnessed the shooting at the Singer’s house . She recalls the sound of the bullets, the men pushing past her, the blood,... (full context)