The Sympathizer

The Sympathizer


Viet Thanh Nguyen

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The Sympathizer Characters

The Narrator

The unnamed protagonist of the novel, also known as the Captain. He is twenty-five at the time in which the novel is set, and was likely born in 1945. He is a double agent, working… read analysis of The Narrator

The General

The narrator describes him as a “thin man of excellent posture.” He is a veteran campaigner who has earned many medals. With his wife, Madame, he has five children, one of whom is Lanread analysis of The General


The General’s most trusted friend and a friend and mentor to the narrator, though Claude is unaware of the narrator’s Communist sympathies. Claude reveals to the narrator that he is one-sixteenth black. They… read analysis of Claude


One of the narrator’s three “blood brothers,” along with Man. He is the husband of Linh and the father of Duc, who is also the narrator’s godson. He has the appearance of… read analysis of Bon

Man / The Commissar

The narrator first identifies Man as his “handler.” Man is a Communist working for the Viet Cong, or the North Vietnamese. He, along with Bon, is also one of the narrator’s “blood brothers.” He… read analysis of Man / The Commissar
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The narrator describes her as a woman with “a mind like an abacus, the spine of a drill instructor, and the body of a virgin even after five children.” Despite her toughness, she is a… read analysis of Madame


The wife of Bon and the mother of Duc. She has a round face, “mottled and cratered” with acne scars, reminding one of a harvest moon. She dies, along with Duc, during a missile… read analysis of Linh


The son of Bon and Linh and the godson of the narrator. The narrator wonders how Bon and Linh, who are described as unattractive people, conceived a child as cute as Duc. He dies… read analysis of Duc


One of a “triumvirate” of Saigon call girls, including Ti Ti and Phi Phi, who awaits a plane to escape from Vietnam, along with the narrator and other evacuees. She is tall with long… read analysis of Mimi

Ti Ti

One of a “triumvirate” of Saigon call girls, including Mimi and Phi Phi, who awaits a plane to escape from Vietnam, along with the narrator and other evacuees. She is “fragile and petite,” with… read analysis of Ti Ti

Phi Phi

One of a “triumvirate” of Saigon call girls, including Mimi and Ti Ti, who awaits to escape from Vietnam, along with the narrator and other evacuees. She is the leader of the trio. She… read analysis of Phi Phi


A military soldier named Ed who has a surname that Mimi, Ti Ti, and Phi Phi can’t pronounce. He guards the embassy and “loves” Vietnamese prostitutes so much that he arranged for them… read analysis of Sarge

Professor Avery Wright Hammer

The narrator’s former professor and Claude’s college roommate. At Claude’s urging on the narrator’s behalf, Professor Hammer secured a scholarship for the narrator at Occidental College and became his “most important teacher after… read analysis of Professor Avery Wright Hammer

Ms. Sofia Mori

The secretary of the Department of Oriental Studies at Occidental College, where the narrator works as a clerk. She is forty-six years old and was born in Gardena, California. She is a Nisei, or second-generation… read analysis of Ms. Sofia Mori

Abe Mori

A relative of Sofia’s who is likely her older brother, given his eligibility to fight in World War II, though his relationship to her is never specified. The Mori family spent time in an… read analysis of Abe Mori

The Department Chair

A blond, white male academic who is the head of the Department of Oriental Studies at Occidental College. He is a serious man who lacks a sense of humor. He’s between the ages of seventy… read analysis of The Department Chair

Reverend Ramon

Referred to as Reverend R-r-r-ramon, he is the leader of the Everlasting Church of Prophets in Los Angeles. The narrator gets him to agree to sponsor and employ Bon after “minimal persuasion and a modest… read analysis of Reverend Ramon

The Crapulent Major

A fat bon vivant who enjoys good food and drink, particularly the Chinese restaurants in Cholon—this is why the narrator refers to him as “crapulent,” meaning over-indulgent in drinking and eating. The major is of… read analysis of The Crapulent Major

Son Do (“Sonny”)

One of the narrator’s friends from college who got his Anglophone nickname in 1969. Sonny was a scholarship student at a college in Orange County, California, where he studied journalism. Sonny left Vietnam, promising… read analysis of Son Do (“Sonny”)

The Tax Collector

A South Vietnamese man who has an overbite and hairs sprouting from a mole “the size of a marble” on his cheek. His official occupation is “rice wine merchant,” while his black market occupation is… read analysis of The Tax Collector

Lan (“Lana”)

The daughter of the General and Madame. She was a tomboy growing up and an excellent student. Her talent in scholastics led to her getting a scholarship to attend the University of California, Berkeley… read analysis of Lan (“Lana”)

The Congressman

A Republican man in his forties who represents a district in Orange County. The narrator first meets him at the wedding between a marine colonel’s daughter and the son of the vice president of the… read analysis of The Congressman


The Congressman’s wife. The narrator meets her, along with Madame and the General, at a lunch at her and her husband’s home in Huntington Beach. She is a Cuban refugee from Fidel Castro’s… read analysis of Rita

Dr. Richard Hedd

An English scholar of Asian Studies and the author of Asian Communism and the Oriental Mode of Destruction: On Understanding and Defeating the Marxist Threat to Asia. The book is well-regarded by former secretaries… read analysis of Dr. Richard Hedd

The Communist Agent

A twenty-two-year-old North Vietnamese sympathizer who tries to swallow a list with the names of important members of the South Vietnamese Army, including the narrator and the General. She is raped by three policemen… read analysis of The Communist Agent

The Parisian Aunt

She is Man’s aunt and a Communist sympathizer to whom the narrator relays letters written in invisible ink. She is a Trotskyist and an anti-colonialist who once worked as a nurse. Man’s great-uncle fell… read analysis of The Parisian Aunt

The Narrator’s Mother

She worked as a maid for the narrator’s father and began an affair with him, resulting in her becoming pregnant with the narrator when she was thirteen. She is barely literate and writes with “a… read analysis of The Narrator’s Mother

The Narrator’s Father

A French priest who employed the narrator’s mother as a maid when she was thirteen. He teaches her how to read Scripture and count in French, and he regales her with stories about life in… read analysis of The Narrator’s Father

The Poet

A writer who works as an emcee during a staging of Fantasia at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood. He is “a modestly built” and “modestly dressed” bespectacled man whose writing has appeared in literary journals… read analysis of The Poet


Professor Hammer’s boyfriend. He is a doctoral student at UCLA and the same age as the narrator. He’s writing his dissertation on the American literary expatriates of Paris. He has white teeth and… read analysis of Stan

The Auteur

The director of The Hamlet. He’s an Oscar-winner with a home in the Hollywood Hills. His personal assistant is a woman named Violet. The narrator notices that he has hair along his forearms… read analysis of The Auteur

The Thespian

The Thespian portrays Captain Will Shamus in The Hamlet. He started his long career off Broadway. He is known for immersing himself so much in his role that he stays in character and refuses… read analysis of The Thespian

The Idol

The Idol portrays Sergeant Jay Bellamy in The Hamlet. He started his career as a singer who became a star after releasing “a bubble-gum pop hit.” The Hamlet is his first film role. He… read analysis of The Idol

The Watchman

The leader of cell C-7 of terrorist unit Z-99. The terrorist unit is based in the secret zone of Binh Duong Province and has been responsible for hundreds of grenade attacks, minings, bombings, mortarings, and… read analysis of The Watchman


The third member of the cell of Communist conspirators to which the narrator and Man belong. He dies in a provincial interrogation center, arrested for possession of anti-government pamphlets. He loved the poetry of Charles… read analysis of Ngo

James Yoon

A Korean-American actor in his mid-thirties who plays the older brother, Binh, in The Hamlet. He dislikes the young actor playing his younger brother, Danny Boy, because the boy tends to upstage him… read analysis of James Yoon

Asia Soo

The actress of mixed-race descent who portrays Mai in The Hamlet. Her mother is a British fashion designer and her father is a Chinese hotelier. She is in her early-twenties, a high-end fashion model… read analysis of Asia Soo

Danny Boy

The name of the character in The Hamlet who is the younger brother of the characters Binh and Mai. The boy is later informally adopted by Sergeant Jay Bellamy and taken to live in St… read analysis of Danny Boy

The Tall Sergeant

One of the four Vietnamese extras playing Viet Cong in The Hamlet, known in the film as King Cong. He participates in a scene in which he and the other extras torture James Yoonread analysis of The Tall Sergeant

The Admiral

The leader of the remaining armed forces of the Republic of Vietnam. He is a slim man with “a familiar, avuncular smile.” His face is “angular, gaunt, and almost handsome.” The narrator perceives him as… read analysis of The Admiral

The Affectless Lieutenant

The leader of the three marines. The narrator remembers the group from a haphazard meeting, along with Bon and Man, in an alley in Saigon some years ago. The three marines were drunk, and… read analysis of The Affectless Lieutenant

The Commandant

The officer in charge of the North Vietnamese camp where the narrator and Bon are prisoners. He has “the high cheekbones and delicate features of an opera singer” and a morose character that the narrator… read analysis of The Commandant

The Baby-faced Guard

A young guard at the prison in North Vietnam who peers through the slot in the narrator’s iron door to mock and degrade him. He has a tattoo on his biceps written in blue… read analysis of The Baby-faced Guard

The Doctor

The man who metes out most of the torture methods used on the narrator. He injects the narrator with truth serum and shocks him with a device that delivers static electricity. Near the end… read analysis of The Doctor
Minor Characters
The Auteur’s personal assistant. She sends the narrator the script for The Hamlet. When they meet, she is dismissive of him, leading him to think that she’s probably racist. She is very brusque and clearly ambitious. She has a blunt, square haircut and blunt, clean fingernails.
The head of production, leading an all-male production crew on The Hamlet. The narrator meets him shortly after he arrives on the film’s location in the Philippines. Harry is responsible for constructing sets and preparing wardrobes. He is originally from Minnesota.