First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers Quotes


“The fact that she gets herself in and out of these situations gives me hope. I see them as clear signs of her cleverness.”

Pa (Sem Im Ung), Chapter 1

This statement defines both Pa’s character and Loung’s character. The love and support that Ung’s father provides towards her rebellious persona illustrate the qualities that tie their relationship together. Additionally, it is a great example of foreshadowing within the text. Pa’s words suggest that Loung will find herself in a deleterious situation, but her restless disposition and supposed cleverness will set her free. The mindset and character that Loung displays serves as a general token of hope throughout the atrocious Khmer Rouge regime.

“It is believed that men who wear their hair long must have something to hide.”

Narrator (Loung Ung), Chapter 3

Loung Ung describes the physical appearance of the Khmer Rouge regime as they parade into her village, highlighting a pivotal point in the Ung family’s journey. Not only is it the primary introduction of evil to their previously easy-going lives, but it shines light on the dehumanization, and forced mass-unification that the Khmer Rouge brings with it, as all the men shared the same long hair. Further, it illuminates the culture of discrimination between men and women in Cambodia during the 1970’s. Loung Ung notes that long greasy hair is denoted as “unacceptable”’ for girls in Cambodia, but the men are revered with this attribute. Finally, there is an obvious sense of foreshadowing present - the long hair of these men evokes a substantial element of mystery, and they truly may not be what the villagers are expecting them to be.

“It is no longer safe for us to stay here.”

Pa (Sem Im Ung), Chapter 8

Although this statement does not naturally stand out as memorable, it sheds light on the power and control the Khmer Rouge held over the Cambodian population. Loung Ung describes the brutality and physical detriments the previous walk inflicted on her just sentences before, yet she accepts yet another migration to a new village. The acute cruciality of the situation becomes overt - it is obvious that the family has no other option. They could never get comfortable, as circumstances were life or death. The family was driven by fear and a will to survive.

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