First They Killed My Father


Loung Ung

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First They Killed My Father: Chapter 24 Summary & Analysis

The Youns capture a Khmer Rouge soldier and a frenzied mob of villagers demand he be released to them so that they can kill him. With the mob nearly breaking down the jail, the Youns are forced to comply and give them the prisoner. Two men drag then him to a field and tie him to a chair for a public execution. Loung’s heart races with the excitement of seeing revenge for her murdered family members, and she pleads with Chou to come watch with her. Chou refuses, but Loung goes anyway. She crawls her way to the front of the crowd and stands only a few feet from the bound soldier. The crowd argues about the most painful way to kill him, and Loung notes that Pol Pot has made her a person “who wants to kill.”
The bloodthirsty mob underscores that Loung is hardly the only one fueled by intense anger towards the Khmer Rouge. Chou’s desire to leave the past behind once again contrasts with Loung’s need to seek painful revenge. Her bloodlust underscores how surviving the horrors of the regime has cost her her innocence.
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Two women volunteer to kill the man, asserting that he is the soldier who killed their families. One, in her sixties or seventies, smashes his head with a hammer. Loung wonders if this is how Pa died. The woman hits him again and again, spattering Loung with blood. The younger woman then comes forward and stabs the prisoner until he dies. The women walk away covered in blood, their eyes filled with rage. As the crowd disperses, Loung again wonders how her family members died, and notes that the soldier’s head bleeds the same way Pithy’s did. His death won’t bring any of them back. Loung and a few other children follow some men as they dispose of the body in a well. Looking into it, Loung realizes it is full of corpses.
The soldier’s death by hammer echoes Loung’s imagining of Pa’s death earlier in the story; the Khmer Rouge did indeed infamously use this weapon on many victims. Loung’s connection between the soldier’s blood and Pithy’s establishes that, even if the soldiers are monstrous, they are still human beings. The execution is somber rather than celebratory, as Loung realizes that revenge won’t bring her family back or bring her any real peace or happiness. This is a step towards letting go of the rage she feels.
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