The Refugees

by

Viet Thanh Nguyen

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Arthur’s wife in “The Transplant.” Prior to the beginning of the story, Arthur had lost their house in a gamble and subsequently Norma had left him. But when she hears of Arthur’s diagnosis of liver failure, she returns to him in order to give him the physical and emotional support she knows he will need to get through it. Her intimacy, then, is literally tied to Arthur’s ability to live. But ultimately she sees Arthur fall back into his old patterns despite his desire to be a new man after the transplant. While she provides him with the intimacy he needs, she does not receive the same support, making her feel isolated and ultimately bringing her to the realization that she needs to leave him once more.

Norma Quotes in The Refugees

The The Refugees quotes below are all either spoken by Norma or refer to Norma. 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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The Refugees PDF

Norma Character Timeline in The Refugees

The timeline below shows where the character Norma appears in The Refugees. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Transplant
Intimacy and Isolation Theme Icon
...he wouldn’t let him store the goods in his garage. Yet he and his wife Norma have refused the ten percent commission Louis offered. (full context)
Intimacy and Isolation Theme Icon
...Louis’s father, who had inadvertently saved Arthur’s life the previous year. Arthur’s cell phone buzzes: Norma telling him to pick up dry cleaning. Louis suggests that Arthur pick up some flowers... (full context)
Intimacy and Isolation Theme Icon
...gambler had culminated in the loss of his home after seventeen years of mortgage payments. Norma had left Arthur to live with one of their daughters, and Arthur had moved into... (full context)
Intimacy and Isolation Theme Icon
When Arthur tells Norma of his diagnosis, he bursts into tears, confessing that he has cashed out his life... (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 the name... (full context)
Memory and Ghosts Theme Icon
Intimacy and Isolation Theme Icon
...lunch, Arthur is back in his living room watching the World Series of Poker. When Norma walks through the door, he realizes that he forgot to pick up her dry cleaning.... (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... (full context)
Intimacy and Isolation Theme Icon
...say good morning, and Martín hangs up. Arthur pretends to carry on a conversation as Norma pretends that he isn’t there. She only acknowledges him as she walks out the door,... (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 having issues.... (full context)
War and the Refugee Experience Theme Icon
...that he was indocumentado. Arthur returns home to pick up clothes and a razor, and Norma says that someone called for him. (full context)
Intimacy and Isolation Theme Icon
Arthur tells Norma what has happened as he reaches for his first drink since the diagnosis, saying that... (full context)
Intimacy and Isolation Theme Icon
Norma calls Arthur’s name, waiting for an explanation. He turns to her, extending his hands. But... (full context)