A Brief History of Seven Killings
Goodreads ratings
3.88 / 5

"A Brief History of Seven Killings" Characters Analysis

By Marlon James

fiction | 704 pages | Published in 2014

Winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize One of Entertainment Weekly's Top 10 Books of the Decade One of the Top 10 Books of 2014 – Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times A “thrilling, ambitious . . . intense” (Los Angeles Times) novel that explores the attempted assassination of Bob Marley in the late 1970s, from the author of Black Leopard, Red Wolf In A Brief History of Seven Killings, Marlon James combines brilliant storytelling with his unrivaled skills of characterization and meticulous eye for detail to forge an enthralling novel of dazzling ambition and scope. On December 3, 1976, just before the Jamaican general election and two days before Bob Marley was to play the Smile Jamaica Concert to ease political tensions in Kingston, seven gunmen stormed the singer’s house, machine guns blazing. The attack wounded Marley, his wife, and his manager, and injured several others. Little was officially released about the gunmen, but much has been whispered, gossiped and sung about in the streets of West Kingston. Rumors abound regarding the assassins’ fates, and there are suspicions that the attack was politically motivated. A Brief History of Seven Killings delves deep into that dangerous and unstable time in Jamaica’s history and beyond. James deftly chronicles the lives of a host of unforgettable characters – gunmen, drug dealers, one-night stands, CIA agents, even ghosts – over the course of thirty years as they roam the streets of 1970s Kingston, dominate the crack houses of 1980s New York, and ultimately reemerge into the radically altered Jamaica of the 1990s. Along the way, they learn that evil does indeed cast long shadows, that justice and retribution are inextricably linked, and that no one can truly escape his fate. Gripping and inventive, shocking and irresistible, A Brief History of Seven Killings is a mesmerizing modern classic of power, mystery, and insight.

ISBN_13:9780698170506
ISBN_10:0698170504

Estimated read time: 5 min read

List of Characters

NameRole
Josey WalesGangster
Nina BurgessSinger
Papa-LoGang leader
Bam-BamGangster
Alex PierceCIA Agent
WeeperGangster
Josey Wales' GangGang Members
Josey Wales' RivalsRival Gang Members
Kim ClarkeJournalist
Mark DuffusJournalist
N***** CharlieGangster

Josey Wales

Role Identification

Josey Wales is a key character in "A Brief History of Seven Killings" who plays the role of a gangster. He is involved in the criminal underworld of Kingston, Jamaica in the 1970s and 1980s.

Character Description

Josey Wales is a feared and respected leader of his gang. He is known for his ruthless and cold-blooded approach to violence. His physical appearance reflects his tough persona, with a muscular build, scars, and a menacing presence. Josey is often seen wearing a signature black hat which adds to his intimidating image.

Character Traits

  • Ruthless: Josey Wales exhibits a cruel and unrelenting nature in his actions, willing to go to any lengths to protect his gang's interests.
  • Intelligent: He is a cunning strategist, always thinking several steps ahead and anticipating his rivals' moves.
  • Resilient: Josey has faced numerous challenges and betrayals throughout his life, but he remains strong and determined.

Character Background

Josey Wales grew up in the slums of Kingston and was drawn to the gang lifestyle at a young age. His impoverished background influenced his decision to join a gang and seek power and respect. Over time, he rose through the ranks and became the leader of his own gang, commanding fear and loyalty from his followers.

Character Arc

Throughout the novel, Josey Wales experiences a complex character arc. Initially presented as a ruthless gangster, his perspective and motivations are gradually revealed. He begins to question the violence and brutality that surrounds him and contemplates leaving the gang life behind. This internal struggle leads to a profound transformation, ultimately leading him to make tough choices that impact the course of the story.

Relationships

  • Papa-Lo: Papa-Lo is Josey Wales' mentor and a fellow gang leader. Their relationship is built on mutual respect and a shared understanding of the underground world they inhabit.
  • Nina Burgess: Josey develops a complicated relationship with Nina, a well-known singer. Their connection serves as an escape from the violence and chaos that surrounds them, but it is also fraught with danger and uncertainty.
  • Josey Wales' Gang: Josey has a loyal group of gang members who are fiercely devoted to him. They support his every decision and follow him without question.
  • Josey Wales' Rivals: Josey's gang faces opposition from rival gangs, which leads to intense conflicts and power struggles. These rivalries test his leadership and determination.

Nina Burgess

Role Identification

Nina Burgess is a significant character in "A Brief History of Seven Killings" who plays the role of a singer.

Character Description

Nina Burgess is a talented and influential singer hailing from Kingston, Jamaica. She possesses a magnetic stage presence and a mesmerizing voice that captivates audiences. Nina is described as glamorous and elegant, with an alluring beauty that captures the attention of those around her.

Character Traits

  • Talented: Nina is a gifted singer, recognized for her soulful voice and natural musical abilities.
  • Determined: She is driven to succeed in the music industry and is willing to make sacrifices to achieve her goals.
  • Empathetic: Nina shows compassion and understanding towards others, often using her platform to shed light on social issues.

Character Background

Nina was born and raised in Kingston, surrounded by poverty and violence. Her love for music became her escape from a harsh reality. She honed her singing skills while facing numerous obstacles, but her determination propelled her to success.

Character Arc

Nina's character arc in the novel revolves around her journey from a struggling artist to an influential figure in the music industry. As she rises to fame, she grapples with the complexities of her newfound position and confronts the expectations placed upon her. The challenges she faces ultimately shape her identity and understanding of her role in society.

Relationships

  • Josey Wales: Nina becomes entangled in a dangerous relationship with Josey, a gangster immersed in violence and criminal activities. Their bond becomes a constant source of tension and danger throughout the story.
  • Kim Clarke: Kim is a journalist who forms a connection with Nina. Through their interactions, Kim provides a source of support and guidance for Nina, leading to a deep friendship.
  • Mark Duffus: Mark is also a journalist who becomes involved in Nina's life. He recognizes her talent and becomes fascinated by her story, leading to a complicated relationship that has both positive and negative consequences.

Conclusion

"A Brief History of Seven Killings" showcases a multitude of complex and layered characters, each with their own distinct traits, backgrounds, and story arcs. Josey Wales and Nina Burgess, in particular, stand out as pivotal figures in the narrative, representing the extremes of violence and creative expression. Through their journeys, the novel delves into themes of power, adversity, and the interconnectedness of lives in a tumultuous era. Readers are sure to be captivated by the rich diversity of these characters and their impact on the story as a whole.