First They Killed My Father

Keav Character Analysis

Loung’s fourteen-year-old sister is beautiful but a gossip, a quality Ma does not consider very ladylike. Loung considers Keav similar to herself in that both are “headstrong and ready to fight.” They argue as sisters do, but Keav, like all of Loung’s siblings, is ultimately a loving, protective force in Loung’s life. When Pa explains Cambodia’s violent history, for example, Keav comforts Loung and says she will protect her. While living in the village of Ro Long, Keav is forced to go to the teen labor camp of Kong Cha Lat. As she walks away, Loung laments that her sister—who took such pride in her clothes and appearance in Phnom Penh—no longer has the joy of beauty in her life. Keav promises she will survive, but Loung wonders if she will ever see her again. Six months later, Ma gets word that Keav is very ill and in the infirmary. Though Ma is able to see her daughter one last time, by the time she returns the next day with Pa, Keav has died of dysentery. The nurse throws out her body before Ma and Pa can collect it. Loung imagines her sister’s lonely, terrifying final hours in the infirmary and continues to think of Keav often after her death.

Keav Quotes in First They Killed My Father

The First They Killed My Father quotes below are all either spoken by Keav or refer to Keav. 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 24 Quotes

One by one, people return to their homes, leaving me standing there alone, staring at the corpse. My mind plays back images of my parents' and sister's murders. Again my heart tears open as I stand there and wonder how they died. Quickly, I push the sadness away. The slumped over corpse reminds me of Pithy in her mother’s arms. Pithy’s head bled in much the same way. His death will not bring any of them back.

Related Characters: Loung Ung (speaker), Pa , Ma , Keav, Geak, Pithy
Page Number: 207
Explanation and Analysis:
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Keav Character Timeline in First They Killed My Father

The timeline below shows where the character Keav 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
...He rides a motorcycle, likes karate and girls, and is strict with his younger siblings. Keav, the family’s oldest girl at fourteen, is beautiful but a gossip—a trait Ma does not... (full context)
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
...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 French have lived in Cambodia... (full context)
Chapter 3: Takeover, April 17, 1975
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
...at citizens to surrender all weapons, and Loung notes that they no longer seem friendly. Keav explains to Loung that they are called the Khmer Rouge and are Communists. The soldiers... (full context)
Chapter 5: Seven-Day Walk, April 1975
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
...fire on all the people who worked for the previous government, killing every single one. Keav takes Loung to go to the bathroom in the woods and they stumble across a... (full context)
Chapter 6: Krang Truop, April 1975
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
Keav comforts Loung and says she will look after her. The next morning, Loung wakes up... (full context)
Chapter 10: Ro Labor Camps, January 1976
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
Rumors spread of the Youns, or Vietnamese, trying to invade. All teenagers, including the fourteen-year-old Keav, are forced to go to Kong Cha Lat, a work camp. Loung remembers how beautiful... (full context)
Chapter 12: Keav, August 1976
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
Keav has been in Kong Cha Lat, the teen work camp, for six months when another... (full context)
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
Back at the hut, Loung imagines what it must be like for Keav at the camp: in barracks with eighty other girls, she has no privacy and can... (full context)
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
Ma returns and says Keav has dysentery and will not live through the night. She was so weak she did... (full context)
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
...sleep for three days before moving on to be reincarnated, and Loung says she hopes Keav won’t be reincarnated here. Loung creates a fantasy to dull the pain, imagining that Pa... (full context)
Chapter 13: Pa, December 1976
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
Four months have passed since Keav’s death. The family is still starving and lives in fear of being outed as supporters... (full context)
Chapter 16: Child Soldiers, August 1977
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
...lyrics, Loung is happy 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... (full context)
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
...she must get used to them. Picking rice is backbreaking, and Loung thinks about how Keav did this until she died. (full context)
Chapter 18: The Last Gathering, May 1978
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
...can understand in this new world. Loung reaches the makeshift infirmary and thinks of how Keav died there alone. When people are too weak to work, Pol Pot sends them there... (full context)
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
...that under the Khmer Rouge some things are better left unsaid. No one brings up Keav or Pa either, choosing to keep their memories private. (full context)
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
...happily together for a few days, though they’re still hungry. Loung has a nightmare about Keav transforming from her beautiful figure in Phnom Penh to skin and bones. Loung vows to... (full context)
Chapter 22: Flying Bullets, February 1979
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
...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 dressed, and the feast she then had... (full context)
Chapter 25: Back to Bat Deng, April 1979
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
...the journey now, she reflects that her heart will never get over losing Ma, Pa, Keav, and Geak. (full context)
Chapter 26: From Cambodia to Vietnam, October 1979
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
...Loung. Eang takes Loung to the salon for a perm. That night Loung dreams about Keav. (full context)