The Refugees

by

Viet Thanh Nguyen

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Mr. Ly Character Analysis

Phuong’s father in “Fatherland.” Mr. Ly had one set of three children prior to the Vietnam War with the first Mrs. Ly, and then had had a second set of three children after the war with Phuong’s mother, naming his second set after his first. It is clear throughout the story that Mr. Ly loves his first set of children a lot more than his second set of children—a fact that becomes particularly evident when his oldest daughter, Vivien, visits. Phuong sees his preference for Vivien as emblematic of Vietnam as a whole, which she feels prioritizes tourists over its own citizens.

Mr. Ly Quotes in The Refugees

The The Refugees quotes below are all either spoken by Mr. Ly or refer to Mr. Ly. 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.
Fatherland Quotes

He often compared Phuong with her absent sister, which had cultivated in Phuong a sense of yearning for Vivien but also some undeniable jealousy.

Related Characters: Phuong, Vivien, Mr. Ly
Page Number: 187
Explanation and Analysis:

We’re all the same to them, Phuong understood with a mix of anger and shame—small, charming, and forgettable.

Related Characters: Phuong, Vivien, Mr. Ly
Page Number: 193
Explanation and Analysis:

In the Ice Lantern’s glow, her sister’s face looked more like her father’s than her own, the symmetry rendering clear what Phuong could now say. Their father loved Vivien more than her.

The photograph ignited easily when Phuong lit it with a match.

Related Characters: Phuong, Vivien, Mr. Ly
Related Symbols: Photos
Page Number: 207
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Refugees PDF

Mr. Ly Character Timeline in The Refugees

The timeline below shows where the character Mr. Ly appears in The Refugees. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Fatherland
War and the Refugee Experience Theme Icon
Memory and Ghosts Theme Icon
Phuong’s father ( Mr. Ly ) had named his second set of children after his first, and Phuong, who is... (full context)
Cultural Identity and Family Theme Icon
The children had never written them letters, however, until Mr. Ly receives a letter from Vivien. Phuong thinks that she must have taken her name from... (full context)
War and the Refugee Experience Theme Icon
Cultural Identity and Family Theme Icon
...never eaten there because it was too expensive—yet Vivien insists on paying for the family. Mr. Ly and Phuong’s mother object to the expensive tourist prices of the restaurant. Phuong, on the... (full context)
War and the Refugee Experience Theme Icon
When Vivien had arrived, she carried an itinerary of sights she wanted to see. Mr. Ly , who worked as a tour guide, told her that he couldn’t have made a... (full context)
War and the Refugee Experience Theme Icon
Memory and Ghosts Theme Icon
Mr. Ly often compared Phuong with Vivien as she was growing up, which gave her a sense... (full context)
War and the Refugee Experience Theme Icon
Mr. Ly comments that they are a lucky generation. When Phuong tries to protest, he says that... (full context)
Memory and Ghosts Theme Icon
Vivien, who has been listening intently, asks Mr. Ly why he named his second set of children after his first. He says he knew... (full context)
Memory and Ghosts Theme Icon
Mr. Ly had never asked Phuong to take one of his tours. Though she had never wanted... (full context)
War and the Refugee Experience Theme Icon
Mr. Ly gives his tour in English, showing off various remains of the Vietnam War: a trapdoor... (full context)
War and the Refugee Experience Theme Icon
Cultural Identity and Family Theme Icon
The American tourists take pictures, and Mr. Ly asks for volunteers to go into the tunnels. When no one does, he scowls and... (full context)
Cultural Identity and Family Theme Icon
Intimacy and Isolation Theme Icon
On Vivien’s penultimate evening in Saigon, she and Mr. Ly drink four flasks of milky rice wine at a Chinese restaurant. While Mr. Ly and... (full context)
Cultural Identity and Family Theme Icon
Intimacy and Isolation Theme Icon
...together. Vivien says that she wants to tell Phuong a secret: that she doesn’t love Mr. Ly , because she doesn’t remember him. They hear their parents climb the stairs, and become... (full context)
Cultural Identity and Family Theme Icon
Memory and Ghosts Theme Icon
At the amusement park the next morning, Mr. Ly takes photos of his children with the disposable camera that Vivien had brought them. They... (full context)
War and the Refugee Experience Theme Icon
Intimacy and Isolation Theme Icon
...The Ferris wheel has made a full rotation, and Vivien steps out, followed by Phuong. Mr. Ly snaps a photograph, but when it is developed, Phuong realizes that Vivien is visible, but... (full context)
War and the Refugee Experience Theme Icon
...pictures enclosed. The letter recounts her memories and how much she wants to come back. Mr. Ly instructs Phuong to have the photographs laminated so that they’ll have something to remember her... (full context)
War and the Refugee Experience Theme Icon
...enormous refrigerator with ice sculptures of the world’s landmarks. Phuong had taken a picture of Mr. Ly and Vivien, who looked more like her father than her sister. It is clear to... (full context)