First They Killed My Father

First They Killed My Father Chapter 19 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Six months pass. Rumors of Youn invasions spread, and Loung spends hours learning to fight in combat. Met Bong stuffs clothes with leaves and straw to act as Youn dummies, then lines the children up in front of them. On Met Bong’s cue, Loung charges at her dummy, stabbing it and screaming, “Die! Die!” The next morning she feels agony, panic, and rage coursing through her body so strongly that they “manifest into physical pains.”
The Vietnamese continue to hover in the background of Loung’s story as a vaguely threatening force. Life under the Khmer Rouge has deeply corroded Loung’s innocence and filled her with such overwhelming anger that she attacks what she can to let some of it out.
Themes
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
Loung feels an overwhelming urge to see Ma, and sneaks away from the camp. She rushes back to Ro Leap, feeling as though Ma and Geak are calling out to her. Pa once told Loung she had extrasensory perception, which she now fears is true. When she reaches the Ro Leap she finds Ma and Geak’s things still in their hut, but the two of them gone. A young woman is there instead, who tells Loung that soldiers took Ma and Geak away the day before. Loung knows what this means. She cannot believe Ma fought so hard for three years only to die now, and that Geak never “got anything good out of life.” She again thinks of stealing rice from the container, “out of their mouths.”
Loung’s bond with her family is revealed to be so strong that she can sense Ma and Geak’s deaths. The fact that she arrives a day too late to see them one last time echoes Pa’s inability to see Keav before she died, and again highlights the inhumanity of the Khmer Rouge in nearly every aspect of life. Loung continues to grapple with stealing rice, which has grown to represent far more than a few grains; for Loung, the theft represents her selfishness in the name of survival.
Themes
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
Loung pictures how they could have died: First they are marched away by Khmer soldiers through muddy fields, along with everyone else deemed traitors to the Angkar. Ma thinks of Pa and wonders if he, too, was this afraid. The soldiers make everyone kneel and Ma pulls Geak toward her, praying and thinking of Pa rather than begging for her life, which she knows is useless. Seconds pass and a solder tears Geak away from Ma. They scream for each other, but soldiers kill all the adults. Geak runs to Ma’s dead body, crying as she cannot understand what has happened, before the soldiers kill her too.
Loung’s detailed imagining once again forces the reader to consider the immense cruelty and horror of execution by the Khmer Rouge, and to recognize the deeply human, universal emotions one might feel in that moment.
Themes
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
Loung walks back to the camp, so overwhelmed with grief that she has no memory of how she spends the next three days. She is angrier than ever before and charges at her Youn dummy in training, pretending it is Pol Pot and reflecting that she no longer has to “pretend to be an orphan.”
Loung gives in to the grief she has so long denied herself in order to survive, and in doing so loses three days of her life. Her realization that she is now truly an orphan creates a sense of tragic irony.
Themes
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
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