English 4

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First They Killed My Father Essay

Everest Wein

Mr. Sullivan

English 4



            First They Killed my Father is a tragic story of a young Cambodian girl who is forced to flee her home country of Cambodia due to a military coup. Although it is a sad story and no one would ever wish this upon some one, the author Loung Ung delivered her story poorly. She consistently broke some basic writing styles that led to a weakly written book. One thing Ung did that made her writing weak was she used obvious padding. She elaborated too much on cretin topics. Another thing Loung does is she did not use enough colorful words to make the story more interesting. She did not use words that draw the reader in. The final thing Ung does is she gives a lot of obvious content. Things that you can see coming she writes. Loung Ung’s story is a very sad one but the delivery is just as tragic.

            Obvious padding makes a story a lot harder to read. The reader feels like they are reading the same thing over and over again. In one line she is describing how she acts around the boy who tried to have sex with her. She says, “Where ever he is, I am not. Whichever direction he goes, I go the opposite. And with each passing day my heart blackens with hatred for him.” It is too much. If Ung had said I stay away from him the reader would have understood. People can figure out that if someone tried to rape someone there will be animosity towards them and they would not want to be around that person. Loung did not grasp that concept. Although it is a sad and horrible situation to be in, the reader does not need to hear every last detail of you emotions to another character. At some point I felt like I was reading Great Expectations with all the shared emotions. Although some would argue that this might be good for a story, I disagree.

            Loung tends to find her self using simple and colorless words. She does not use words that challenge your mind. At some points the reader may feel like they are reading a middle school level book. In one scene Loung was asked to join a dance group to perform for the soldiers. What she is talking about her practice she says, “The reality, though, is more painful and tiring then I had imagined.” She is describing something that she thinks is hard work and something that makes her tired. Ung just says it is “painful” and “tiring.” Anyone can see that there are many other words she could have substituted to make this part a little more interesting. Excruciating or agonizing could have replaced Painful. Tiring could have been replaced by exhausting or strenuous. Although it seems like a small thing little things like this make or break a good delivery or a story.

            The final thing Ung does is use obvious content. When the family is on their seven-day walk Loung is constantly asking to go home. She was a five year old on a 7-day walk. It is clear that she is going to want to go home. It is clear that she will be tired. The funny thing is though; Loung kept telling us she was tired.  At one point for the 5th time she asks, “Can we go home now.” The reader has to be thinking to them self, “are you serious.” We have heard her ask this question over and over again. Even if it did happen in real life and she wants to tell it as it happened we do not need to hear her saying that over and over. Hearing the same thing continuously really discourages the reader. They start asking them self, “when is she going to ask again.” There is no doubt that her journey was hard and she wanted to go home but she should not have given us so much obvious information.

            The story of Loung Ung’s family and life is an extremely sad story. No one should ever have to go through. Stories like this should be looked at as stories of great courage and resilience. It is hard to do that when the reader is constantly being disappointed by the author presenting her incredible story in a grade school fashion. Loung Ung and her family are extremely brave and have over come a lot. Their story deserved more justice by being written better.


2 Comments so far ↓

  • mooose498

    I think what I like most about your essay is that unlike what most people did, you stuck to your own opinion and backed it up. You didn’t state that you were in favor that her book was a good example of using literary devices, in fact, you strongly disagreed, which was a very bold move. It is clear that you have your own opinions and that you are not afraid to stand behind them, whereas most people would complete the assignment and state what they would think the teacher would want to hear.
    Another thing that I admire about your essay is that you don’t forget to give enough explanation after a quote, whereas a lot of people (including myself) would give a long introduction to the quote, state the quote, and write perhaps one or two sentences after that, if any at all. You explained your quotes and showed us why they supported the point you were trying to make.
    Good job.

  • fblax2837

    I really enjoyed reading this essay because it showed your true feelings and was well thought out. It’s crucial that one doesn’t criticize the entire book because Loung Ung went through some extremely tragic times. You showed your sympathy for Ung while constructively criticizing only her writing rather than her story. You truly focused in on only the writing aspect of it, and I understand where you are coming from with all of these different evaluations of the text. Sometimes, however, I feel as if you are a bit too harsh. Rather than mocking Ung by assuming all readers are thinking “‘are you serious’ ” (4th paragraph), you could have made your point in a more subtle tone. Overall it was an extremely strong essay, and I’m impressed you took a side other students were afraid to tackle.

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