The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh NguyenJournal #1 (Pages 1 – 90)PlotThe Sympathizer, is a spy novel in first person by an unnamed, half-French and half-Vietnamese narrator.
The story begins with the narrator, an aide-de-camp to the general of the Anti-Communist Special Branch, talking about the fall of Saigon to Communism.The narrator is portrayed as a trusted member of the general’s inner circle, but he quickly explains he is a spy sent by Communists to observe all the activities of the Special Branch in the United States. One of the narrators best friends, Bon, also comes to the U.S. with him, leaving Man behind to handle leading the new Communist regime in Vietnam. Bon is not aware of the narrator and Man’s true political beliefs.Analysis The Sympathizer is about a man living in a nightmare that was the Vietnam War.
The author shares the perspective of a Vietnamese soldier, who supports the Northern communist movement and lives in the South as a highly respected member of the Anti-Communist special branch, he wants the reader to experience what it is like to be a two faced person by providing a very personal side of the main character. The postcolonial lens would be effective in analysing this part of the book because, it shows the challenges of the Southern Vietnamese people being invaded by the North Vietnamese who are challenging they’re way of living. Many South Vietnamese families fled the country because America had interfered and was going to rid Vietnam of Communism. The narrator was one of the people that fled to the U.S.A and had a hard time adjusting to life there due to the difference in the way they live, the language they speak.
The general’s daughter, Lana, abandoned Vietnamese traditions and stopped speaking Vietnamese and her father was furious. I can relate to this because since moving to Canada, I do not talk in my native language as much and I do not follow the traditions of my culture as much. This happened in Three Day Road as well, for example, Elijah, the main characters best friend, distanced himself from the Indian culture because of where and how he grew up. I have found this to be the case amongst other immigrant children that start to adopt the ways of their new surroundings, which in my opinion is a good thing.”The Sympathizer” by Viet Thanh NguyenJournal #2 (Pages 90 – 180)PlotIn Los Angeles, the narrator gets a job as an assistant at the Department of Oriental Studies, where he meets Ms. Mori. The narrator gets in touch with Sonny, a classmate from Occidental College who is the editor of a local newspaper. The general is having a hard time adjusting to life in the States, so he decides to find people who want to return to Vietnam, and to raise funds for the mission, the general opens a liquor store.
During his time in Los Angeles, the narrator keeps communicating with Man writing letters with invisible ink. The narrator has a conversation with the general about having a spy in their midst, trying to save himself, the narrator quickly blurts out that the crapulent major is the spy. The General accepts the suggestion, and tells the narrator to plan his murder. The narrator and Bon move forward with their plot, and the crapulent major is shot and killed just outside of his home.Analysis It would be effective to use a historical lens, because the author, who is also Vietnamese and experienced the war with his own eyes.
The author was born in North Vietnam, and the political beliefs were Communist. Due to safety issues the authors family decided to move to South Vietnam, and after some years into the war, Southern Vietnam had fell to the North and communism was taking over the whole country. The United States decided to get involved into the war because they didn’t want, “another country falling into the hands of communism.
” The authors family fled to the United States because Southern Vietnam had fell to Communism and the family saw a better life for their child in the U.S.A.
The author wants this book to send a message to Hollywood, and the American people by showing them the perspective of what happened to the people of Vietnam during the war. The author talks about watching Vietnamese war movies from Hollywood, and experiencing how American soldiers are shown as courageous and ruthless. The author explains asking himself, “whether he was the Vietnamese getting killed, or the American?” The author says the book is supposed to show how it is like for a Vietnamese to live in United States.
The author, thinks Vietnamese people that do not know all of the information about the Vietnam war will be surprised, it will make them realize how poorly Vietnamese people are portrayed in Hollywood movies. The author’s main purpose was to show the American army as wrong to interfere between the country’s issues.I support the author’s decision of sending a message to the people of America, because they need to understand both sides of the story. Americans use Hollywood movies as propaganda and movies made in the modern world show terrorists as middle eastern people.”The Sympathizer” by Viet Thanh NguyenJournal #3 (Pages 180 – 270)PlotStill feeling guilty due to the assassination of the major, the narrator has an opportunity to be distracted, through the Congressman’s connections in Hollywood, he is asked to serve as an advisor on a movie called the Hamlet.The narrator is to make sure the Vietnamese people are being represented accurately.
The Auteur was making the story revolving around the Americans and the Vietnamese people’s concerns were secondary. The Auteur does not take the narrator’s criticisms kindly, and the narrator is involved in an “accidental” explosion on the movie set. The movie studio pays the narrator a settlement fee in order to prevent being sued by him, and the narrator returns to Los Angeles. In Los Angeles, the General escalates his plans to send Vietnamese soldiers to get in Vietnam through the jungles in Thailand. Bon volunteers to go on this dangerous mission, the narrator thinks about Bon and volunteers to go along with the soldiers to protect Bon. The narrators friend, Sonny, begins writing about their mission, potentially exposing it, the general gets the narrator to kill Sonny. Having proven that he is worthy of battle by murdering Sonny, the General decides to send the narrator along with the soldiers and Bon to Thailand.
Analysis There are many symbols used in the novel, an example is the American Dream, it is an unattainable goal many immigrants that move to the United States want to achieve. That dream is unable to be fulfilled because of the barrier in equality between the people that are born and raised there, versus the people that move there. Another example of a symbol in the novel is the rucksack the narrator is given by Claude.The American Dream is symbolized by the main character who moved to the United States for the purpose to spy on the General, but when he is forced to distract himself after murdering an innocent person he starts working on a movie. The narrator is sent to Hollywood to work on the movie, as an advisor to see if the Vietnamese people are being represented correctly.
The narrator arrives in Hollywood and develops a relationship with the Auteur, the person directing the movie and controlling everything going on. The narrator makes suggestions to the Auteur who does not take the narrators criticism lightly and the narrator has an “accident” on the set of the movie. Everybody suspects it was the Auteur, but the narrator decides not to take action on it, instead he is paid a settlement fee meaning he can not sue the company. This shows why people of different race living in the United States have a barrier and are treated different than people born and raised there. The American Dream symbolizes hope for people that move to the United States for a better future but when they feel the discrimination around them and how there is no equality, they realize that it is a false hope. Another symbol used in the novel is the rucksack the narrator got from Claude. The rucksack has a false bottom, he uses the false compartment to hide the equipment he uses for spying on the general. Throughout the book and the narrator experiencing life in America, reporting the progress of the generals mission to return to Vietnam, the bottom starts to get heavier, representing the guilt of his crimes weighing him down.
“The Sympathizer” by Viet Thanh NguyenJournal #4 (Pages 270 – 385)PlotIn Thailand, the group is found by Communists after only spending a day and a half. The Communist forces ambush the group killing them all, besides Bon and the narrator, who are taken to a Communist “reeducation camp”. The narrator is writing a book with all his confessions, the Commandant is responsible for the re-editing of the book tells him it is almost nearly sufficient. The Commandants superior, the Commissar is responsible of supervising the narrator as he enters the final stage of his reeducation. The readers find out Man, is the Commissar.
Despite being lifelong friends, Man is going to torture the narrator. The narrator is not allowed to sleep and being tortured, it is to help him access parts of his brain where things he might have forgotten live. After a few days without any sleep, the narrator is becoming unhinged.
It helps him remember a memory he suppressed for a long time. He remembers witnessing a brutal torture and gang rape of a communist agent, who he helped in arresting and was unsuccessful in helping escape. By the end of the torture, the narrator is driven completely mad and the novel ends with the narrator joining the “boat people,” heading out to sea.AnalysisOne of the themes in the book is betrayal, and it can be identified many times throughout the book, for example in the first part of the book, the reader is told how three best friends have had a life long relationship, but one of them is not aware of the other two’s beliefs.
The author is challenged by keeping his individual loyalties and his political beliefs, him and Bon were captured by the Communist in Thailand by their best friend. The narrator has been lying to Bon since they have got involved in the war, he told Bon that Man was going to follow them to America but instead Man was going to lead a Communist regime back in Vietnam. The narrator took away Bon’s freedom of choice, but in the end of the book he confesses he did that to keep Bon safe. The narrator is tortured by his other best friend, Man, the leader of the communist regime that stayed in Vietnam.
Man says the torture is due to crimes but since the narrator is also communist he should’ve been forgiven. The narrator is brutally tortured until he can answer Man’s riddle, “What is more precious than independence and freedom?”Betrayal was also a theme of the novel Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden, the two main characters who are best friends, Xavier and Elijah, start drifting away from each other when they are sent to fight in a war.