The Refugees

by

Viet Thanh Nguyen

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Liver Symbol Analysis

Liver Symbol Icon

In “The Transplant,” Arthur’s liver transplant represents the opportunity for a better life. Before Arthur’s liver starts to fail, Arthur loses his house, his wife Norma, and his part of his father’s business because of his gambling addiction. When he receives his new liver from Men Vu, he strives to become a better person and husband. He tries to find a way to repay a member of Men’s family, which he does by befriending Louis Vu, whom he believes is Men’s son. However, over the course of the story, the liver transplant becomes a lost opportunity, as Arthur quickly falls back into old habits. He once again becomes self-centered and returns to his gambling addiction. This lost opportunity is particularly evident when Arthur takes his first drink after his transplant, and his liver begins to pain him once more, demonstrating how he has come full circle after his diagnosis to the person he had been before.

Liver Quotes in The Refugees

The The Refugees quotes below all refer to the symbol of Liver. 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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Liver Symbol Timeline in The Refugees

The timeline below shows where the symbol Liver appears in The Refugees. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Transplant
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 the... (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 new man: kinder, more reliable, and hard-working. He receives a new organ... (full context)
Intimacy and Isolation Theme Icon
...about her for once in his life. He says that he’s still recovering from the liver, but they both know that this is a lie. She tells him that either he... (full context)