First They Killed My Father

Chou Character Analysis

The eight-year-old Chou, whose name means “gem,” is Loung’s opposite in personality: where Loung is bold and rambunctious, Chou is quiet and obedient. Nevertheless, Chou is Loung’s closest companion. After Keav’s death, Loung turns to Chou for an explanation about what happens when people die. Chou responds that they sleep for three days before moving on to be reincarnated. Chou is also quick to forgive; for example, at one point Loung picks a fight with her out of general anger and frustration, but Chou grabs her sister’s hand on the way to work the following morning to reaffirm their bond. When the two leave Ro Leap, they cannot bear to be separated, as Ma had insisted, and instead pretend to be orphans together at a girls’ work camp. Chou does not stand up for herself the way Loung does and cannot handle the physical demands of harvesting rice. As such, she is picked on by the other girls and eventually demoted to the role of cook. She finds the work easier, however, and is able to bring rice back to Ma and Geak before their deaths. Despite Chou’s comparative weakness, Loung repeatedly marvels at Chou’s ability to survive the Khmer Rouge without holding onto the intense rage that Loung herself feels. Chou prefers to distance herself from the horror she has witnessed, refusing, for example, to watch a Khmer Rouge soldier’s execution with Loung. In the story’s epilogue, Loung reveals that Chou married at age eighteen and bore five children. Upon their reunion fifteen years after Loung first left Cambodia, Chou bursts into tears and reaches for Loung’s hand once again as if nothing has changed.

Chou Quotes in First They Killed My Father

The First They Killed My Father quotes below are all either spoken by Chou or refer to Chou. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Harper Perennial edition of First They Killed My Father published in 2001.
Chapter 9 Quotes

My first red dress, the one Ma made for me for the New Year's celebration. I remember Ma taking my measurements, holding the soft chiffon cloth against my body, and asking me if I liked it. "The color looks so pretty on you," she said, "and the chiffon material will keep you cool." Ma made three identical dresses for Chou, Geak, and me. ... I grind my teeth so hard the pain in my throat moves up to my temples. My hands clench in fists; I continue to stare at my dress. I do not see the soldier's hand reach into his pocket and retrieve from it a box of matches. I do not hear his fingers strike a match against the side of the box. The next thing I know the pile of clothes bursts into flames and my red dress melts like plastic in the fire.

Related Characters: Loung Ung (speaker), Ma , Chou, Geak
Related Symbols: Loung’s Red Dress
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:
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Epilogue Quotes

Once her glance reached my face and our eyes locked, I saw that they are the same: kind, gentle, and open. Instantly, she covered her mouth and burst into tears and ran over to me. The family was speechless. She took my hand, her tears cool in my palm. Our fingers clasped around each other naturally as if the chain was never broken, and I allowed Chou to lead me to the car while the cousins followed with my bags.

Related Characters: Loung Ung (speaker), Chou
Page Number: 238
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chou Character Timeline in First They Killed My Father

The timeline below shows where the character Chou appears in First They Killed My Father. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2: The Ung Family, April 1975
Women’s Treatment in Times of War Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
...goes. Kim, another brother, is ten and nicknamed “little monkey” for being small and agile. Chou is three years older than Loung and, unlike her little sister, quiet and obedient. She... (full context)
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
...leisure time than others; a maid does the cooking and cleaning. Loung attends school with Chou and Kim six days a week and does homework on Sundays. Pa insists that the... (full context)
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
...children swimming after school on Sundays at “the club.” There Loung sees her first “Barang”—which Chou says means “white man.” Keav corrects her, saying Barang actually means “French,” but because the... (full context)
Chapter 8: Anlungthmor, July 1975
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 11: New Year’s, April 1976
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
Loung begins to close herself off from her family, and constantly fights with Chou. When the weaker Chou finally pushes back, Loung charges at her. Ma throws a coconut... (full context)
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
Chou grabs Loung’s hand when they leave for work in the communal garden, and Loung knows... (full context)
Chapter 12: Keav, August 1976
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
Loung asks Chou what happens when people die. Chou responds that they sleep for three days before moving... (full context)
Chapter 13: Pa, December 1976
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
...in her stomach and prays to the gods to bring Pa back. She then tells Chou that she will kill Pol Pot. She feels so full of hatred that it scares... (full context)
Chapter 14: Ma’s Little Monkey, April 1977
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
Another New Year’s has passed, making Loung seven, Geak five, Chou ten, and Kim twelve. In keeping with Pa’s request, Kim acts as the head of... (full context)
Chapter 15: Leaving Home, May 1977
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
...have all changed from who they were in Phnom Penh: Kim rarely speaks, she and Chou do not fight, and Geak is increasingly withdrawn. Loung is deeply sad but knows Pa... (full context)
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
Women’s Treatment in Times of War Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
...or good luck” and Loung wonders if she will ever see him again. She and Chou cannot bear to separate yet. When they reach a work camp they are greeted by... (full context)
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
...them, and the children must chant “Angkar! Angkar! Angkar!” The other children bully Loung and Chou for their white skin. When one girl, Rarnie, calls Loung a “stupid Chinese-Youn,” Loung viciously... (full context)
Chapter 16: Child Soldiers, August 1977
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
Chou is demoted to a cook. After three months, Met Bong tells Loung that she is... (full context)
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
...to hear music once again, and reminisces about playing around in Keav’s stylish clothes with Chou in Phnom Penh. When the girls finish singing, they are all invited to dance. Met... (full context)
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
Loung is lonely at the new camp without Chou, who was her closest companion in Phnom Penh. All of the new girls keep to... (full context)
Chapter 17: Gold for Chicken, November 1977
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 18: The Last Gathering, May 1978
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
...calling to her and thinks she has gone crazy until she sees that Ma, Geak, Chou, Kim, and Meng are, in fact, all really there; it is the only infirmary for... (full context)
Chapter 20: The Youn Invasion, January 1979
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
Suddenly Kim grabs Loung’s shoulder. He is with Chou, having run to her camp when the explosions started and then continued toward Loung’s. Kim... (full context)
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
Neither Kim nor Chou mention Ma and Geak, so Loung assumes they know they are dead. Kim says they... (full context)
Chapter 21: The First Foster Family, January 1979
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
While gathering water from a stream one day, Chou and Loung befriend a girl with pretty brown eyes named Pithy. She is the same... (full context)
Women’s Treatment in Times of War Theme Icon
...able to fight him off before running off into the woods. Having heard her screams, Chou and Pithy come running. They carry their firewood back to the base. When Loung thinks... (full context)
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
Upon returning home, their foster mother scolds Loung and Chou for bringing back too little wood and calls Loung stupid and lazy for cutting her... (full context)
Chapter 22: Flying Bullets, February 1979
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
...foster family’s laundry, Loung thinks wistfully of the red dresses Ma made for her and Chou for New Year’s. She thinks of Keav helping with her hair while Chou got Geak... (full context)
Chapter 23: Khmer Rouge Attack, February 1979
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
...gruesome scene of blood and bits of brain matter. Panicked, Loung runs with Kim and Chou out of the shelter. Realizing Kim has left the backpack with their things, Loung rushes... (full context)
Chapter 24: The Execution, March 1979
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 25: Back to Bat Deng, April 1979
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
...uncles, and soon they see Uncle Leang driving toward them on his bicycle. He gives Chou and Kim sweet rice cakes. He does not recognize Loung at first. (full context)
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
...At the end of the week, he and Loung leave the village on a bicycle. Chou sobs as she says goodbye, but Loung won’t let herself cry. She reflects that people... (full context)
Chapter 26: From Cambodia to Vietnam, October 1979
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
...sisters, who live in floating houseboats on the Mekong. Loung is jealous and thinks of Chou as she sees other young girls play together. In order not to arouse suspicion, Meng... (full context)
Epilogue
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
...herself in American culture and tried to Americanize herself to erase memories of the war. Chou often wrote letters to Meng asking about her, but Loung never wrote back. (full context)
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
Khouy, Kim, and Chou stayed in Bat Deng. Chou married at eighteen and bore five children. Khouy became the... (full context)
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
...excited. Her family greet her at the airport, but seem unsure of how to react. Chou looks like her mother, and when she and Loung lock eyes, Chou bursts into tears.... (full context)