First They Killed My Father

First They Killed My Father Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Seven months have passed. With the Youn scare over, the children are allowed a day of rest every few months. Loung lies and says she is visiting Chou and then walks to Ro Leap to see Ma. As she does so, she reflects that she is no longer the scared child who begged Ma to let her stay, but fears Ma will not want to see her. She spots Ma working in the garden while Geak sits under a tree, looking as thin and tiny as ever despite now being five. Ma makes Geak laugh, and Loung is happy that they have each other.
Having only a single day off over months underscores the extreme working conditions Loung continues to face. Survival has forced Loung to grow up quickly. The moment of joy between Ma and Geak reflects the power of family to be a source of comfort.
Themes
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
Ma is excited to see Loung and takes her permission slip, which is simply a piece of paper that says Loung could leave her camp, to the chief to ask for the day off. Loung waits with Geak, whom she observes looks sick. Despite having plenty of rice now, Ma fears that the periods of starvation permanently stunted her growth.
Geak’s increasingly frail appearance suggests that innocent children are often the most vulnerable victims in times of war.
Themes
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
Ma tells Loung of attempting to trade her jewelry for some chicken in a nearby village. Other women told her where to go, and she nervously approached the house. The woman there told her to come back the next day, and when she did a man was waiting. He took the earrings and brutally beat Ma. Loung feels increasingly guilty as she tells stories of Chou coming to visit every other month and bringing rice. Loung thinks about how much her family members have sacrificed for each other while she has done nothing.
Family continues to create unbreakable bonds amidst the horror of the Khmer Rouge, and Ma again exhibits great strength and determination to survive. Loung will continue to feel guilty for her perceived lack of contribution to her family for a long time.
Themes
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon