A Brief History of Seven Killings Summary & Study Guide

Crooked politicians, opposing gangs, and unintended victims all add their voices to the story of A Brief History of Seven Killings. The novel tells the story of the rise in power of Josey Wales, a gang leader with a desire to take over the world. His ambition is matched by his temper, which ultimately leads to his downfall. In the course of the story, Josey plans an assassination attempt against the Singer, a Jamaican reggae superstar hoping to unite his country in peace. Josey ultimately destroys the peace plans even though the assassination plan fails. Josey later becomes rich when he branches his drug business to America. It is in America, however, that Josey’s temper gets away from him and he shoots up a crack house after a druggie shoots him with a water pistol filled with urine. Josey is jailed for these crimes and at the end of the novel is believed to have been found dead in his jail cell.

Although the story of Josey’s rise to power and fall from power seems to be the main plot in the novel, there are many subplots interwoven into Josey’s story. These subplots involve the lives of those affected by Josey’s cruelty and selfishness. Nina Burgess, one of the many narrators in the novel, runs for her life after she comes face-to-face with Josey after the Singer is shot. Alex Pierce hopes to make his name known with the story behind the peace concert in Jamaica and the shooting of the Singer. Josey sends a hit man to kill Alex but Alex is able to kill the man and escape. Josey Wales is able to convince the people of Copenhagen City to

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change loyalties from Papa-Lo, even though he is still the official leader of the Copenhagen City gang, to him. Papa-Lo is ultimately killed at Josey’s request.

Although it is a fictional story, the novel is based on real events in Jamaica’s history. There was an attempt to kill the singer, Bob Marley, as he prepared to present a peace concert for the country in 1976. Although the concert was intended to unite the country, it wound up being viewed as political propaganda.

Many themes are addressed in the novel including racism and discrimination seen from both the Jamaican and American points of view. Another theme in the novel is that of speech. The different characters in the novel are characterized by their speech patterns, grammar and pronunciation. Proper speech is considered a sign of intelligence while those who speak badly admit they are judged by their speech patterns. Although there is no particular religious theme in the novel, there are multiple uses of religious imagery throughout the text. In the scenes both before and after the attempted shooting of the Singer, he is depicted as Jesus Christ while those who plan the murder as likened to Judas Iscariot, the man who betrayed Jesus.

The novel takes its name from two sources. First, it covers the murders of seven of the eight men involved in the plot to kill the Singer. Second, near the end of the novel the writer Alex Pierce names his series of newspaper articles A Brief History of Seven Killings. He writes not about those associated with the shooting of the Singer but instead about seven of the eleven people killed by Josey Wales in a Bushwick crack house.

Category: Abstract

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