First They Killed My Father

First They Killed My Father Chapter 10 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Ma and Pa force Khouy to marry a girl from a nearby village, Laine, to decrease the likelihood of his being recruited to the Khmer Rouge army; with a wife, the Khmer Rouge know he can “gives sons to the Angkar.” Laine’s parents meanwhile want to protect her from being raped by soldiers. This happened to Davi, the pretty teen daughter of Loung’s neighbors who was taken by soldiers one night. She returned covered in bruises and refused to meet her parents’ gaze. Now she does not speak to anyone, and villagers grow quiet around her. The soldiers similarly abduct many girls from their homes, asserting that it is their duty to bear sons for the Angkar. If they cannot do so, they are killed. Some girls commit suicide to escape.
Davi’s fate reveals the particular horrors women often face in times of war. The soldiers’ treatment of women is on a continuum with the expectations of femininity Loung described earlier in Phnom Penh; though far more extreme, of course, the Khmer Rouge’s denial of women’s dignity and bodily autonomyis undergirded by the same thinking that demands women be pure, delicate, and submissive.
Themes
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
Women’s Treatment in Times of War Theme Icon
Laine and Khouy are married and sent to a labor camp. The soldiers also force Meng to go to the labor camp. The brothers bring extra food home when they are allowed to visit the village, but these visits become increasingly infrequent. Laine never comes to the village, so Loung knows little about her sister-in-law apart from the fact that her marriage is one of convenience rather than love. Khouy is no longer the suave martial artist he was in Phnom Penh; instead, he is already “old and hard, and alone.” Meng is thin and lanky, making the labor camp more difficult for him than it is for Khouy. He gazes intently at his siblings when he returns home, as if afraid he will forget their faces.
Meng and Khouy continue to display devotion to their family, showing that the bond between the Ungs remains unbroken. Loung’s observation of her brothers’ newly-acquired hardness, however, reflects how survival in the face of extreme horror forever changes people and chips away at their humanity—and in the case of young people, at their innocence and wonder as well.
Themes
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
Rumors spread of the Youns, or Vietnamese, trying to invade. All teenagers, including the fourteen-year-old Keav, are forced to go to Kong Cha Lat, a work camp. Loung remembers how beautiful Keav seemed in Phnom Penh, and how much pride she took in fussing over her school uniform. Loung laments that with her black uniform and thinning hair, “now the joy of beauty is gone from her life.” Pa says it is good that the family is separated; Kim later explains to Loung that if the Khmer Rouge ever discover that Pa worked for the Lon Nol government, they will not be able to punish the whole family.
This is the first mention of the Vietnamese, who will continue to be presented by the Angkar as cruel savages and fodder for racist propaganda. Pa’s assertion that the family’s separation is a good thing foreshadows Ma later sending Loung, Chou, and Kim away from Ro Leap for their own safety.
Themes
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
Loung worries that the soldiers will kill them because they are educated. Many families commit suicide to end the terror. Loung is frightened of dying, having begun to realize death’s permanence. One evening Kim returns from the chief’s house and tearfully tells the family that the chief told him not to come back. Without his leftovers, Loung worries that the family will starve. Pa suspects Kim’s firing has to do with Pol Pot, a name that has begun to be whispered around the village as the rumored leader of the Angkar. He may have given orders to increase the number of soldiers in villages, which has in turn reduced the power of village chiefs.
Loung again cuts through to the irrational cruelty at the heart of the Khmer Rouge’s hatred. This is also the book’s first mention of Pol Pot, and foreshadows how he will eventually outweigh the Angkar itself in terms of importance. Kim’s distress at being unable to provide for the family again shows the unbreakable bond between the Ungs.
Themes
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
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Kim explains that the Angkar borrowed money from China for weapons and supplies, and now the Angkar has to pay China back. Loung cannot understand why the villagers hate the Chinese so much. Kim says that they may be confusing them with the Vietnamese, because to people who have never left the village all “white-skinned Asians look alike.” That evening Pa says that the Angkar dreams of ruling over an empire that extends into neighboring Thailand, Laos, and southern Vietnam.
Loung’s innocent perspective continues to highlight the absurdity of racial prejudice. Kim, meanwhile, shows the ignorance and meaninglessness at the heart of the ethnic hatred inculcated by the Khmer Rouge; people are so blinded by irrational hatred that they do not even realize who they are discriminating against.
Themes
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon