First They Killed My Father


Loung Ung

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First They Killed My Father: Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

After many hours the family is out of the city. It is the dry season, and the air is very dry and dusty. The wet season runs from May to October and turns the country into a “green paradise,” but April is the hottest month of the year. Khouy wraps a scarf around Loung’s head and tells her not to look over the truck’s sides. Thousands of families can be seen walking. Loung’s family stops at an empty hut for the night. When Loung has to use the bathroom, Ma hands her cash to use as toilet paper, and Loung realizes the family must be in big trouble.
Loung’s description of the unforgiving environment emphasizes how difficult the journey from Phnom Penh is. Despite being a fearful figure in Phnom Penh, Khouy behaves in a paternal way towards Loung here, emphasizing the bond between the Ung family underlying whatever petty squabbles they might have had in easier times. The fact that money no longer has value reveals how rapidly society has changed and how the Ungs can no longer buy the comfort of their old lives.
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The next morning more Khmer Rouge soldiers yell at them to keep moving. Pa says that the soldiers kicked everyone out of the city, including from schools and hospitals. They were not allowed to go home first, and many families have been separated. Khouy says many old and sick people did not survive the journey, and Loung understands why he told her to keep her head down. The soldiers shot and killed those who refused to leave. Pa again calls the Khmer Rouge “destroyers of things.” When the truck runs out of petrol, the family gathers what they can carry and begins to walk. Soldiers stop Pa and demand he give them his, Meng’s, and Khouy’s watches, which he does without hesitation. He whispers to the children that they must give the soldiers whatever they want.
The extreme brutality and paranoia of the Khmer Rouge becomes ever more apparent, as does the danger of speaking against it. The Ungs must let go of more comforts and luxuries to continue moving forward and survive in their new environment. The Khmer Rouge demand the men’s watches because they seek to abolish any indications of wealth—but also take that wealth for themselves. Pa’s warning forebodes the danger of speaking out against the repressive regime.
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