The Refugees

by

Viet Thanh Nguyen

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Arthur Arellano Character Analysis

The main character of “The Transplant.” Arthur is a middle-aged man with a gambling addiction. As a result of this addiction, he had lost his home in a bet, and subsequently he separated from his wife Norma. When his liver started to fail, however, Norma returned to him to support him through his transplant and recovery. Arthur befriends Louis Vu, whom he thinks is the son of his organ donor. In Arthur’s case, Nguyen makes literal the idea that humans need intimacy to live, as the intimacy and support that Arthur receives from both Norma and Louis help him to literally survive. Yet even though Arthur tries to view his liver transplant as giving him a new lease on life, Arthur does not change his habits. He continues to be self-absorbed and continues his obsession with gambling. The irony of his story lies in the fact that many of the refugee characters in the book are forced into a new life but are able to overcome immense outside adversity, while Arthur is given an opportunity to make something better of himself and is unable to because of his personal irresponsibility.

Arthur Arellano Quotes in The Refugees

The The Refugees quotes below are all either spoken by Arthur Arellano or refer to Arthur Arellano. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
War and the Refugee Experience Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Grove Press edition of The Refugees published in 2017.
The Transplant Quotes

Arthur, hovering in the corner, sensed that he was merely a specter, already dead, acknowledged by Norma only as she brushed by him on her way out the door, saying over her shoulder, “Don’t forget your pills.”

Related Characters: Norma (speaker), Arthur Arellano, Martín Arellano
Related Symbols: Liver
Page Number: 83
Explanation and Analysis:

“You’re my friend,” Louis replied.

Arthur interpreted the statement to mean that he was Louis’s only friend, for Louis never mentioned anyone else. “You’re my friend, too,” Arthur said, putting as much feeling as he could into his words. For a moment, the two of them maintained eye contact and smiled at each other.

Related Characters: Arthur Arellano (speaker), Louis Vu (speaker), Norma, Martín Arellano
Related Symbols: Liver
Page Number: 89
Explanation and Analysis:
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Arthur Arellano Character Timeline in The Refugees

The timeline below shows where the character Arthur Arellano appears in The Refugees. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Transplant
War and the Refugee Experience Theme Icon
Arthur Arellano’s garage has recently been transformed into a warehouse, inside which are stacked boxes of... (full context)
War and the Refugee Experience Theme Icon
Cultural Identity and Family Theme Icon
Every week, Louis tries to quell Arthur’s fears about housing the fake goods over lunch at Brodard’s, where Arthur has acquired a... (full context)
Intimacy and Isolation Theme Icon
Arthur thinks that Louis is simply telling himself what he wants to hear, but he does... (full context)
Intimacy and Isolation Theme Icon
Arthur sees his actions as a gift—a way of paying back Louis’s father, who had inadvertently... (full context)
Intimacy and Isolation Theme Icon
Eighteen months prior, Arthur’s liver had begun to fail—a shock that he was completely unprepared for. When he visited... (full context)
Intimacy and Isolation Theme Icon
Arthur has never been lucky, and is a chronic loser of bets. His career as a... (full context)
Intimacy and Isolation Theme Icon
When Arthur tells Norma of his diagnosis, he bursts into tears, confessing that he has cashed out... (full context)
War and the Refugee Experience Theme Icon
Arthur’s one chance is a transplant. He fantasizes about getting a new liver and becoming a... (full context)
War and the Refugee Experience Theme Icon
Memory and Ghosts Theme Icon
Intimacy and Isolation Theme Icon
One day, however, a letter arrives at the home Arthur and Norma are renting from Martín. In it, a computer error at the hospital reveals... (full context)
Memory and Ghosts Theme Icon
Intimacy and Isolation Theme Icon
The evening of Arthur and Louis’s lunch, Arthur is back in his living room watching the World Series of... (full context)
Intimacy and Isolation Theme Icon
In bed, Norma tells Arthur not to touch her. She asks him if it would kill him to think about... (full context)
Intimacy and Isolation Theme Icon
The next day, Arthur calls Martín, hoping to ask for refuge. But when he hears his brother’s disapproving tone,... (full context)
Cultural Identity and Family Theme Icon
That morning, at the office, Arthur realizes that he was correct in not asking Martín for help. Arthur has barely started... (full context)
Intimacy and Isolation Theme Icon
Martín asks how Arthur and Norma are doing, explaining that he had heard through the grapevine that they were... (full context)
Intimacy and Isolation Theme Icon
Before meeting Louis, Arthur thought that his organ donor might have been like him and Martín: middle aged and... (full context)
War and the Refugee Experience Theme Icon
Intimacy and Isolation Theme Icon
Louis has recently been buying real estate to add to his income. Arthur asks why he doesn’t live in one of those houses, as his apartment is pretty... (full context)
War and the Refugee Experience Theme Icon
The next day gets off to a rough start. The office computer crashes and Arthur’s car won’t start, leaving him to ask for a jump from Rubén, one of the... (full context)
Intimacy and Isolation Theme Icon
Arthur phones the person who called, Minh Vu, and he wonders if this is one of... (full context)
Intimacy and Isolation Theme Icon
Arthur tells Norma what has happened as he reaches for his first drink since the diagnosis,... (full context)
Intimacy and Isolation Theme Icon
Arthur arrives at Louis’s apartment and breathlessly tells him about his conversation with Minh. Louis admits... (full context)
Intimacy and Isolation Theme Icon
Arthur demands that Louis remove his things from his garage. Louis refuses, saying that they’re friends.... (full context)
War and the Refugee Experience Theme Icon
Arthur says that he will take the things out of his garage himself, but Louis says... (full context)
Intimacy and Isolation Theme Icon
Norma calls Arthur’s name, waiting for an explanation. He turns to her, extending his hands. But when Norma... (full context)