First They Killed My Father

First They Killed My Father Chapter 15 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The famine has ended, but the Angkar seems to sporadically increase and decrease food rations. Kim believes it is because they send more rice to China in exchange for weapons when they think the Vietnamese are about to attack. Loung reflects that they have all changed from who they were in Phnom Penh: Kim rarely speaks, she and Chou do not fight, and Geak is increasingly withdrawn. Loung is deeply sad but knows Pa would not want her to give up.
Loung finds strength from her relationship with Pa, as she will continue to do so throughout the story. Kim remains a source of information for his sister. The Khmer Rouge is slowly robbing the Ungs of their humanity, as they can focus only on survival.
Themes
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
Entire families begin to disappear overnight. Kim says the Khmer Rouge are killing even the children of the people they’ve already executed, fearing they will one day rise up to seek revenge. Ma gathers the children to say they must split up and leave her if they are to survive. Because Geak is only four, she must stay with Ma. The three others will walk in different directions until they reach work camps, where they will say they are orphans and give new names. Loung cries that she wants to stay, but Ma says she does not have a choice, and sends them away the next morning. Ma says she cannot take care of them, and they must not return.
The barbaric Khmer Rouge recognizes the strength of the bonds between families and considers it a threat. Ma sending her children away is the ultimate sacrifice, but she knows it is what must be done for all of their survival. Loung has long turned to her family for strength, so the thought of separating represents yet another horror inflicted by the regime.
Themes
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
Loung’s sadness turns to anger as she walks. She thinks Ma is weak, reflecting that the Angkar calls women “weak and dispensable.” Kim leaves them “without words of goodbye or good luck” and Loung wonders if she will ever see him again. She and Chou cannot bear to separate yet. When they reach a work camp they are greeted by an imposing woman they greet as Met Bong, who supervises the camp. Loung is surprised at how easy it is to lie, saying they are orphans whose parents died in the Civil War. The camp is for girls “too weak to work in the rice fields.” Instead, they grow food for the army.
The Angkar’s regressive attitude towards women is based on the same kind of thinking that Ma espoused in Phnom Penh—that is, that women should be submissive and docile. This reveals how such ideas about women are all part of the same continuum of sexism. Loung’s bond with Chou continues to remain especially strong. Loung has now both stolen and lied in the name of survival.
Themes
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
Women’s Treatment in Times of War Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
At night Met Bong repeats propaganda lessons that the Angkar will protect them, and the children must chant “Angkar! Angkar! Angkar!” The other children bully Loung and Chou for their white skin. When one girl, Rarnie, calls Loung a “stupid Chinese-Youn,” Loung viciously attacks her, screaming “Die!” Met Bong breaks up the fight and forces Loung to water the garden alone as punishment. Loung thinks of revenge as she does so. After this, the girls stop picking on her but continue to do so to the weaker-seeming Chou. Chou says she dreams of being able to forget all this, but Loung says she needs angry memories to replace the sad ones. She will never forget her hatred for the Khmer Rouge.
The Khmer Rouge gains support for its genocidal mission through propaganda, in which it portrays the Angkar as superior and, as such, deserving of its power. Loung knows by now that the Angkar will not protect her, however, no matter what she is taught to say. She continues to experience racial prejudice that she does not fully understand. Her fight with Rarnie echoes the very beginning of the story when she pushed a boy for lifting up her skirt, revealing that the Khmer Rouge has yet to fully crush her spirit. Even so, she continues to be fueled by rage and denies herself the chance to grieve.
Themes
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
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