First They Killed My Father

First They Killed My Father Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The truck driver seems to leave them in the middle of nowhere with green mountains in the distance. It is now the rainy season, and the air is humid. The village representative leads them to a small trail up a mountain. Loung finds it difficult to hike in her flimsy flip flops. They reach the village by nightfall, at which point they are fed and led to the bamboo and straw hut that is to be their home. The chief will ration salt, rice, and grains every week or two. The village is called Anlungthmor and is patrolled by Khmer Rouge, so they must never speak of Phnom Penh.
The change in season reveals how much time has passed, while Loung’s improper footwear again emphasizes how ill-prepared she is for her new circumstances. The patrolling Khmer Rouge creates a sense of tension and reveals how strictly-controlled the Ungs’ lives are becoming.
Themes
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
The family huddles together in their hut for warmth at night. Loung gets a fever the second night and hallucinates that ghosts and monsters coming to kill her; Kim and Chou also get sick and have the same nightmares. Pa says they must be careful what they eat, because there are no doctors or medicines in the mountains.
Survival becomes yet more difficult. Loung and her siblings’ nightmares echo their fears of being taken by the Khmer Rouge. Pa’s words foreshadow the fact that many will die from starvation and disease over the next four years.
Themes
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
Hundreds of others have come to the village and are often moved from place to place by the Khmer Rouge. Pa, Khouy, and Meng must do manual labor every day. Food becomes increasingly scarce, and they catch animals to supplement their diet. The chief eventually sends the young men of the village to dig for wild potatoes and other roots on the mountain. They are gone for days at a time. During their second month in the village, a severe rain storm prevents them from going to the mountains and also washes away the family garden. It rains for weeks, flooding the village. Pa catches dead rabbits that float by, but because they cannot build a fire they must eat them raw.
The Ungs must continue to sacrifice comfort in the name of survival. The fact that they eat eating stomach-turning foods reveals their desperation. The Khmer Rouge’s assertion that it would provide for its citizens has clearly proven false, and the Ungs are just one family of hundreds being subjected to the regime’s cruelty and ineptitude.
Themes
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
When the rains recede, there is still no food. Hunger and fear cause villagers to become suspicious of newcomers. With their lighter skin and lack of farming knowledge, the Ungs stand out. Pa begs the village chief to relocate them. He also says that the Khmer Rouge have started killing anyone perceived as a threat to the new regime, including monks, doctors, teachers, or even people who wear glasses because they appear too intelligent. Only by moving between villages will the Ungs be safe.
The Ungs’ Chinese heritage and privileged life in Phnom Penh again prove a burden under the Khmer Rouge, whose brutality grows ever more paranoid and irrational. The fact that other villagers would turn on the family highlights the difficult choices people often must make in the name of survival.
Themes
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
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The family is again picked up by a Khmer Rouge truck. Loung feels used to the routine of moving by this point. Meng says that while three hundred people moved into Anlungthmor five months earlier, by now two hundred have died from starvation, food poisoning, and malaria. Geak has grown extremely thin and frail. She cries with hunger.
Loung’s resignation to moving underscores the fact that, when necessary, people can adapt to horrific circumstances to survive. The mass deaths in the village, meanwhile, reveal the extent of the devastation the Khmer Rouge has already caused in Cambodia.
Themes
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon