The Refugees

by

Viet Thanh Nguyen

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Refugees can help.

Professor Khanh/The Professor Character Analysis

Mrs. Khanh’s husband in “I’d Love You to Want Me.” The professor and Mrs. Khanh came to the United States via a refugee boat with their children. The professor, whose work was in oceanography, was only able to find a job teaching Vietnamese at the local community college. The story focuses on the professor’s battle with a diagnosis he receives. Though it is never explicitly stated, it is heavily implied that he has Alzheimer’s disease, as he is constantly mixing up dates and information, forgetting how to get home, and how to use various appliances in the house. When he calls Mrs. Khanh by the incorrect name, Yen, she initially gets upset. But eventually, Mrs. Khanh realizes that the only way in which she can help her husband retain his sanity is by sacrificing her own identity, as she starts to call herself Yen.

Professor Khanh/The Professor Quotes in The Refugees

The The Refugees quotes below are all either spoken by Professor Khanh/The Professor or refer to Professor Khanh/The Professor. 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.
I’d Love You To Want Me Quotes

That was true love, she thought, not giving roses but going to work every day and never once complaining about teaching Vietnamese to so-called heritage learners, immigrant and refugee students who already knew the language but merely wanted an easy grade.

Page Number: 113
Explanation and Analysis:

“Who are you?” he cried, raising his hand as if to ward off a blow. […]

“It’s just me,” she said. “It’s Yen.”

Related Characters: Mrs. Khanh (speaker), Professor Khanh/The Professor (speaker)
Page Number: 124
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Refugees LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Refugees PDF

Professor Khanh/The Professor Character Timeline in The Refugees

The timeline below shows where the character Professor Khanh/The Professor appears in The Refugees. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
I’d Love You To Want Me
Intimacy and Isolation Theme Icon
Mrs. Khanh and her husband, Professor Khanh , are at a wedding banquet. They had attended many others like it, usually out... (full context)
Memory and Ghosts Theme Icon
Intimacy and Isolation Theme Icon
Mrs. Khanh tells the professor that the couple is honeymooning in Paris and the French Riviera. They reminisce about their... (full context)
Memory and Ghosts Theme Icon
Intimacy and Isolation Theme Icon
The professor tries to get up to dance, saying “You always insisted we dance when you heard... (full context)
War and the Refugee Experience Theme Icon
As they drive back from the wedding, the professor takes a wrong turn, driving to the community college from which he had recently retired... (full context)
Memory and Ghosts Theme Icon
The next morning, Mrs. Khanh tells the professor about the previous night’s events, as he had asked her to inform him of the... (full context)
Memory and Ghosts Theme Icon
Intimacy and Isolation Theme Icon
The professor and Mrs. Khanh’s son Vinh arrives, fresh from his graveyard shift at the hospital. He... (full context)
Memory and Ghosts Theme Icon
Vinh continues to argue that Mrs. Khanh doesn’t need the money, but that the professor needs her at home. He points to his father’s shirt, which is stained by hollandaise... (full context)
War and the Refugee Experience Theme Icon
Intimacy and Isolation Theme Icon
Not long after this visit, the professor and Mrs. Khanh stop attending Sunday mass and gradually see less and less of their... (full context)
Intimacy and Isolation Theme Icon
At home, Mrs. Khanh continues to make the home easier for the professor to navigate. She tapes out a path from the bed to the bathroom, and posts... (full context)
Intimacy and Isolation Theme Icon
For Mrs. Khan, the most disturbing problem is when the professor comes home as a stranger. One day, he returns from an afternoon walk with a... (full context)
Memory and Ghosts Theme Icon
Intimacy and Isolation Theme Icon
That evening for dinner, Mrs. Khanh and the professor talk about the postcard they received from their eldest daughter, who works in Munich. The... (full context)
Memory and Ghosts Theme Icon
That evening, Mrs. Khanh goes to the professor ’s library, which is filled with hundreds of books. He cultivated the collection after they... (full context)
Memory and Ghosts Theme Icon
Over the next few days and weeks, the professor calls Mrs. Khanh “Yen” again and again. Mrs. Khanh is consumed with curiosity about this... (full context)
War and the Refugee Experience Theme Icon
Memory and Ghosts Theme Icon
One day, Mrs. Khanh finds the professor in the bathroom, naked from the waist down and furiously scrubbing his pants and underwear... (full context)
War and the Refugee Experience Theme Icon
Memory and Ghosts Theme Icon
Nor had the professor yelled at Mrs. Khanh when they were lost at sea with their children, huddled together... (full context)
Memory and Ghosts Theme Icon
The professor and Mrs. Khanh had never spoken of this incident at sea, even though he spoke... (full context)
Intimacy and Isolation Theme Icon
Mrs. Khanh speaks to Vinh over the phone. She is more forthcoming with him about the professor ’s condition than with her other children, but she grows frustrated when he encourages her... (full context)
Memory and Ghosts Theme Icon
Months pass. Mrs. Khanh follows the professor on his walks, discreetly staying at a distance of ten or twenty feet away. They... (full context)
Memory and Ghosts Theme Icon
Intimacy and Isolation Theme Icon
The professor starts to talk about how, when he and Mrs. Khanh had visited their home in... (full context)
Memory and Ghosts Theme Icon
Mrs. Khanh tells the professor that Yen is not her name—her name is Sa. The professor is shocked and pulls... (full context)
Intimacy and Isolation Theme Icon
...vacations they knew she always wanted to take. When she returns home, she cannot find the professor . She drives her car around the block, and then drives in wider and wider... (full context)
Memory and Ghosts Theme Icon
Intimacy and Isolation Theme Icon
...but the burner hasn’t been lit. She turns it off and sees light spilling from the professor ’s library. He is shelving the travel guides that the other librarians gave her. When... (full context)