The narrator wonders if his questioning of Sonny’s courage pushed Sonny to write the following headline in his newspaper: “Move On, War Over.” The narrator’s provocation had “an unintentional, but desirable, effect.” The narrator photographs the article with a mini-camera. He’s also been photographing the General’s files, to which he has access as his aide-de-camp. Further, he’s photographed statements of bank accounts where the General has saved modest funds for the Movement, “raised in small donations from the refugee community, Madame’s restaurant, and a handful of respectable charitable organizations that [have] donated to the Fraternity for the relief of sad refugees and sadder veterans.”
The “effect” is that Sonny feels the need to prove his authenticity as a political activist by making a bold statement. His statement will raise the ire of the General and other fanatical members of the refugee community. The narrator is less concerned by this, however, than he is impressed by his ability to get under Sonny’s skin by winning an argument and calling his moral integrity into question. If the narrator can’t succeed in winning back Sofia, at least he can succeed in arousing guilt in Sonny.
The narrator sends all of this information to his Parisian aunt via a courier. In his latest message, he gives the details of Bon’s itinerary. The narrator also says that he’s going to Vietnam. He claims that this is so that he can better report on the enemy, but it’s really so that he can save Bon’s life. The narrator is sipping from a bottle of Scotch that the General gave him when the General enters the store room at the liquor store. Instead of paying the narrator, he keeps him well-supplied with alcohol. The General throws a handful of crumpled dollars on his desk, irritated by his lot in life, and the narrator pours him a double of scotch. The General leans forward and taps Sonny’s newspaper, asking if the narrator has read it.
The narrator is disobeying Man’s order to remain in the U.S., but he’s doing it so that he can keep his blood oath to Bon, which he expects Man to understand. The General’s choice to pay the narrator in alcohol does the work of allowing the General to keep more funds to himself and his cause, while it also helps to keep the narrator desensitized to his guilt and his moral ambivalence. The alcohol also helps the General to forget his resentment over being reduced to a life as a shopkeeper.
The General isn’t sure if Sonny is a journalist or a Communist sent by the North Vietnamese to spy on the refugees. He notes how the narrator knew Sonny in college and asks if he expressed these sympathies back then. The narrator says that he did. The General asks why the narrator didn’t tell him. He says that the narrator’s problem is that he’s too sympathetic. The General concludes by saying that something “may need to be done” about Sonny. The narrator agrees.
Sonny’s article inspires the General’s paranoia about spies. The narrator’s knowledge about Sonny’s politics doesn’t inspire the General’s suspicion, as it should, but rather pity for the narrator’s sympathies. To prove that he’s capable of taking a side, however, the narrator agrees with the possibility of killing Sonny.
The narrator sees an ad in Sonny’s newspaper announcing that Lana will be part of a revue called Fantasia. Bon goes with him to the show, which is held at the Roosevelt Hotel on Hollywood Boulevard. They sit at a table at the back of the hotel’s “cozy lounge,” sip cognac, and listen to “a winsome singer in a bolero jacket” singing the popular Vietnamese singer Pham Duy’s song “City of Sadness.”
Fantasia is a 1940 Disney film that is a celebration of classical music. The refugee community re-appropriates the premise of the show by using popular Vietnamese music instead of classical (European) favorites. This is another way in which the community applies Western culture to their own.
The Poet is the show’s emcee. He introduces Lana to the stage by referring to her as “our very own Vietnamese fantasy.” She steps onstage wearing a red velvet bustier, a leopard-print miniskirt, black lace gloves, and thigh-high leather boots with stiletto heels. She sings “I’d Want You to Love Me,” a song the narrator has only heard sung by men, given that it’s “the theme song of the bachelors and unhappily married males” of his generation. She moves on to “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down).” However, she layers the English lyrics with others in French and Vietnamese, turning it into a song about lovers, enemies, and war. The song sends the narrator into a daydream of his homeland.
Lana’s onstage persona blends Western and Eastern influences. She adopts the assertive sexual image of American pop stars while singing Vietnamese ballads. She re-appropriates a ballad that has traditionally been sung by men to address sexual dissatisfaction among women. She also complicates the Nancy Sinatra song about love gone wrong by using it as a metaphor for the misguided American-Vietnamese relationship.
When Lana finishes the song, the audience claps, whistles, and stomps. The narrator sits silently, stunned by her performance. She returns to the table reserved for performers. The narrator goes to speak to her. He compliments her by saying that he never knew she could sing like that. He leans in to offer her a cigarette and asks what her parents think of her career. She says that they deem it a waste of time to sing and dance. She supposes that the narrator agrees, given that he agrees with everything her father says. The narrator says that he agrees with some of the things the General says but doesn’t disagree with anything.
The narrator uses Lana’s outstanding performance as an excuse to go talk to her. His offering of a cigarette is a romantic gesture that he’s learned from old movies. He wants to express his interest in Lana while remaining in the General’s good graces. His comment indicates how he equivocates without being dishonest: he is clear to affirm the ideas that he likes but never expresses his negative opinions.
Lana says that her parents fear that singing will ruin her for marriage. They want her to marry someone “very respectable and very rich.” She looks at the narrator, addressing him as Captain, and says that he’s neither of those things, which makes him interesting. He offers her another cigarette. Their eyes meet as she takes one. He then stands and invites her to the bar. The narrator invites Bon to join them. When she asks Bon about his wife and child, tears stream down his cheeks. He tells her that Linh and Duc are dead. Lana embraces him while the narrator focuses on her with his lust, determined to have her.
The narrator appeals to Lana because she knows that her parents would never approve of him, not only because he isn’t rich but also because he is biracial—an opinion that the narrator will later hear himself from the General. Lana sympathizes with Bon’s loss. Instead of identifying with his friend in this moment, the narrator’s lust for Lana intensifies. He craves her sexually, but he also wants the comfort that his mother and Sofia once provided.