Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Viet Thanh Nguyen's The Sympathizer. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.
The Sympathizer: Introduction
The Sympathizer: Plot Summary
The Sympathizer: Detailed Summary & Analysis
The Sympathizer: Themes
The Sympathizer: Quotes
The Sympathizer: Characters
The Sympathizer: Symbols
The Sympathizer: Theme Wheel
Brief Biography of Viet Thanh Nguyen
Historical Context of The Sympathizer
Other Books Related to The Sympathizer
- Full Title: The Sympathizer
- When Written: Summer 2011-2013
- Where Written: Los Angeles, California
- When Published: April 2015
- Literary Period: Contemporary Fiction
- Genre: Historical Novel / Black Comedy
- Setting: South Vietnam; Camp Pendleton, California; Los Angeles, California
- Climax: The narrator is re-educated and returns to a state of nothingness.
- Antagonist: The Commandant
- Point of View: First-person
Extra Credit for The Sympathizer
Apocalypse Now. In the book’s Acknowledgements, Nguyen writes that the 1979 film by Francis Ford Coppola serves as the inspiration for The Hamlet, the fictional film that the narrator advises on in The Sympathizer. Coppola’s film, which was based on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, was also filmed in the Philippines. Apocalypse Now stars Marlon Brando as the rogue Colonel Kurtz and Martin Sheen as Captain Benjamin Willard, the Marine officer who is dispatched to find and murder Kurtz. Sheen, who replaced Harvey Keitel as the film’s leading man, suffered a heart attack during production, due to stress and alcoholism.
My Lai Massacre. In the novel, Nguyen vaguely alludes to the massacre, which occurred in a small, “mostly abandoned village near Quang Ngai,” nicknamed “Pinkville” by a U.S. Army task force. The My Lai Massacre is the most notorious war crime committed by American troops during the Vietnam War. As many as 500 villagers, particularly women, children, and the elderly, were rounded up and shot under the command of First Lieutenant William Calley, Jr., who was later court-martialed for his crime. Some, however, believe that the junior officer was unfairly scapegoated and that true blame for the massacre rested with high-ranking officers.