The Refugees

by

Viet Thanh Nguyen

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James Carver Character Analysis

The main character of “The Americans.” James is an African-American Vietnam War veteran who flew a B-52 (a plane that drops bombs). Carver and his wife, Michiko, go to visit their daughter Claire, who now lives in Vietnam and teaches English. Carver, who never liked Vietnam, is confused as to why Claire would want to live there. He sees this decision as another one of Claire’s rebellions, as many of her biggest decisions have been in defiance of his opinions. For Carver, the trip helps him to realize that Claire is an adult who can make her own decisions, and that she truly feels closer to Vietnamese culture than she does to his own, or his wife’s Japanese culture. Carver is frustrated, however, when Claire takes him to the de-mining site where her boyfriend, Khoi Legaspi, is developing a robot that helps with de-mining. When she argues that he’s trying to undo some of the bad things that Carver did during the war, Carver is outraged. Carver’s character offers a different perspective from many of the stories that come before. Having direct involvement in the Vietnam War, he serves as a demonstration of the scars that people who fought in the war left on the country and its people.

James Carver Quotes in The Refugees

The The Refugees quotes below are all either spoken by James Carver or refer to James Carver. 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 Americans Quotes

“You’re not a native,” Carver said. “You’re an American.”

“That’s a problem I’m trying to correct.”

Related Characters: James Carver (speaker), Claire (speaker), Michiko
Page Number: 130
Explanation and Analysis:

The taller one’s prosthetic arm was joined with the human part at the elbow, while the other’s prosthetic leg extended to mid-thigh. Carver nicknamed the tall one Tom and the shorter one Jerry, the same names he and his U-Tapao roommate, a Swede from Minnesota, had bestowed on their houseboys.

Related Characters: James Carver, Claire, Khoi Legaspi, Michiko
Page Number: 138
Explanation and Analysis:
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James Carver Character Timeline in The Refugees

The timeline below shows where the character James Carver appears in The Refugees. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Americans
War and the Refugee Experience Theme Icon
James Carver and his wife Michiko take a trip to Vietnam to see their daughter Claire. James... (full context)
Cultural Identity and Family Theme Icon
Legaspi annoys Carver. On their first tour in Hue, Legaspi tries to sympathize with Carver, who has walked... (full context)
War and the Refugee Experience Theme Icon
...Michiko and Legaspi speak about his research, which is in robotics. He invites Michiko and Carver to see a demonstration of his robot in action. Carver is hesitant about it: they... (full context)
Cultural Identity and Family Theme Icon
As they take the picture, Carver thinks that he’s becoming stupider in old age. He feels as though he hasn’t been... (full context)
War and the Refugee Experience Theme Icon
Carver is happy that William is flying something safer than the plane he flew: a B-52.... (full context)
Cultural Identity and Family Theme Icon
The next morning, Carver and Michiko take a van to Quang Tri, where Claire lives and where Legaspi’s de-mining... (full context)
Cultural Identity and Family Theme Icon
Carver, Michiko and Claire go to a café beneath her apartment. Children giggle and stare at... (full context)
Cultural Identity and Family Theme Icon
Carver remembers Claire coming home as a teenager, sobbing at a comment from a peer or... (full context)
Cultural Identity and Family Theme Icon
Carver responds that that’s the stupidest thing he’s heard. Claire gets upset, saying that he’s said... (full context)
War and the Refugee Experience Theme Icon
Michiko tries to calm the situation, taking Claire shopping. This forces Carver to find something to do alone. He passes the time by sitting outside at a... (full context)
War and the Refugee Experience Theme Icon
Carver, Michiko, and Claire set out for the de-mining site the following day with Legaspi. As... (full context)
Cultural Identity and Family Theme Icon
Legaspi plays jazz on the radio, having been informed by Claire that Carver loves jazz. Of all the places Carver has travelled, he liked France and Japan the... (full context)
War and the Refugee Experience Theme Icon
They reach the de-mining site and two teenage boys greet them. Carver immediately forgets their names, so he nicknames them Tom and Jerry (the same names that... (full context)
War and the Refugee Experience Theme Icon
Cultural Identity and Family Theme Icon
Carver criticizes Legaspi’s naïveté, saying that the Department of Defense could figure out a way to... (full context)
War and the Refugee Experience Theme Icon
Cultural Identity and Family Theme Icon
Fifteen minutes later, a monsoon strikes. Carver walks on the road away from the site and thinks about how he had never... (full context)
Cultural Identity and Family Theme Icon
Intimacy and Isolation Theme Icon
As Carver continues to walk, the rain becomes a deluge. He is uncertain of whether to keep... (full context)
War and the Refugee Experience Theme Icon
By evening, Carver has a fever and is in a hospital. He dreams about floating in a black... (full context)
Cultural Identity and Family Theme Icon
Intimacy and Isolation Theme Icon
Carver wakes up and sees Claire. She gives him water and tells him he’s been here... (full context)
Memory and Ghosts Theme Icon
Intimacy and Isolation Theme Icon
Carver realizes that Claire has been sleeping on a bamboo mat near his bed for three... (full context)
Cultural Identity and Family Theme Icon
Intimacy and Isolation Theme Icon
...years after that, when Claire was barely potty-trained, she would wake up and jump onto Carver’s chest, demanding to be taken to the bathroom. He would lead her down the hall,... (full context)