The Sympathizer

The Sympathizer

by

Viet Thanh Nguyen

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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 a handsome man who has been “beaten to a pulp.” He has large, “parachute-like ears” and a chin that looks as though it is “perpetually tucked into the folds of his neck.” His flat nose is “bent hard right.” Politically, he is conservative and “a genuine patriot” who has hated Communists since a local group of them forced his father, a village chief, to kneel in the village square and make a confession before shooting him behind the ear. As a former airman, he has the ability to jump out of airplanes, walk thirty miles with eighty pounds on his back, and hit a bull’s-eye with a pistol and rifle. Bon and the narrator became friends at lycée, where Bon jumped into a fight to protect the narrator from bullies who called him “unnatural.” Bon is a dedicated and obedient soldier. Under the General’s orders, he murders the crapulent major, calling it and all other politically-motivated murders “assassinations.” Later, they are both sent back to Vietnam to fight the General’s guerrilla war against the Communists. They are both also captured and sent to a detention camp for over a year, before being released by the Commissar and the Commandant and sent out of Vietnam.

Bon Quotes in The Sympathizer

The The Sympathizer quotes below are all either spoken by Bon or refer to Bon. 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:
Cultural Duality Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Grove Press edition of The Sympathizer published in 2016.
Chapter 14 Quotes

That very night, we snuck out of our dormitory and made our way to a tamarind grove, and under its boughs we cut our palms. We mingled our blood once more with boys we recognized as more kin to us than any real kin, and then gave one another our word.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Bon, Man / The Commissar , The Parisian Aunt
Page Number: 233
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 23 Quotes

He was the commissar but he was also Man; he was my interrogator but also my only confidant; he was the fiend who had tortured me but also my friend. Some might say I was seeing things, but the true optical illusion was in seeing others and oneself as undivided and whole, as if being in focus was more real than being out of focus. We thought our reflection in the mirror was who we truly were, when how we saw ourselves and how others saw us was often not the same. Likewise, we often deceived overselves when we thought we saw ourselves most clearly.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Bon, Man / The Commissar
Page Number: 374
Explanation and Analysis:

I was that man of two minds, me and myself. We had been through so much, me and myself. Everyone we met had wanted to drive us apart from each other, wanted us to choose either one thing or another, except the commissar. He showed us his hand and we showed him ours, the red scars as indelible as they were in our youth. Even after all we had been through, this was the only mark on our body.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Bon, Man / The Commissar
Page Number: 376
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Sympathizer PDF

Bon Character Timeline in The Sympathizer

The timeline below shows where the character Bon appears in The Sympathizer. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...be left behind. The narrator reserves one seat and three more on the plane for Bon, his wife, and his child, who is also the narrator’s godson. (full context)
Cultural Duality Theme Icon
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
Along with Man, Bon is one of the narrator’s “blood brothers.” In their school days, they swore undying loyalty... (full context)
Cultural Duality Theme Icon
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
After he finishes packing, the narrator borrows a car to get Bon. The military police wave him through the checkpoints when they see the General’s stars on... (full context)
Cultural Duality Theme Icon
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
When the narrator, Bon, and Man leave the beer garden, they stop to smoke a cigarette in an alley,... (full context)
Chapter 2 
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
Everyone selected for departure, including Bon and his family, meet outside of the General’s villa to board two blue buses. The... (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
...queueing is “unnatural” to them. When the marines check them for weapons, the narrator and Bon hand over their firearms. Next, entry papers are handed out by a young embassy bureaucrat.... (full context)
Chapter 3
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...plane’s starboard engines are on fire. The narrator is on his hands and knees when Bon seizes his elbow, dragging him with one hand, while holding Linh with the other. Linh... (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Bon thinks that soldiers in the South Vietnamese Army are retaliating for not getting a seat... (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...get on the plane and tells him that his friends are gone. Twenty meters away, Bon is kneeling and clutching Linh to his chest. A circle of blood expands on her... (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...throws her at the General when he reaches the ramp, and the General catches her. Bon is running alongside the narrator, holding Duc. The narrator shoves Bon toward the ramp and... (full context)
Chapter 4
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...The refugees are taken to Camp Asan and, thanks to the General, the narrator and Bon are given barracks, while the other refugees stay in tents. Bon lays on his bunk... (full context)
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
The next day, they bury Linh and Duc. Bon wears a white scarf of mourning around his head, a rag ripped from his bedsheet.... (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...Paris. He composes his letters as though he’s writing to Man directly. He talks about Bon’s inner torment and his recent losses of Linh and Duc. Bon might have starved to... (full context)
Cultural Duality Theme Icon
...he’s settled in Los Angeles, the narrator canvasses local churches, looking for a sponsor for Bon. Finally, the leader of Everlasting Church of Prophets, Reverend Ramon, agrees to be Bon’s sponsor,... (full context)
Chapter 5
Asian Identity in the United States Theme Icon
The General hires Bon as a clerk in his liquor store, though Bon continues to work part-time for Reverend... (full context)
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...also [involves] sexual liberation.” The only thing that could make the narrator happier is if Bon were to get a companion. Shy and discreet about sex due to his Catholic upbringing,... (full context)
Cultural Duality Theme Icon
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
...narrator arrives at the General’s liquor store on the unfashionable eastern end of Hollywood Boulevard. Bon tells him that Claude is in the storeroom in the back with the General. When... (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
To assert his loyalty to the General, the narrator, along with Bon, will kill the crapulent major. When the narrator leaves the storeroom, he sees that the... (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
Still, Bon shows the narrator a sawed-off, double-barreled shotgun on a rack beneath the cash register. When... (full context)
Chapter 6
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
The narrator goes home and watches Bon clean and oil the .38 Special. They watch Dr. Richard Hedd being interviewed on television... (full context)
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
The narrator asks Bon if he was happy when the General charged him with this task. Bon picks up... (full context)
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
The narrator understands, and he’s stunned; it’s the longest speech he’s ever heard from Bon—the only man the narrator has ever met who is equally moved by both love and... (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...follows the major for six Sundays. On the Saturday before their fateful encounter with him, Bon and the narrator drive to Chinatown. After lunch, they browse the shops, where “all manner... (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
The next evening, the narrator and Bon park down the street from the gas station at 7:30 PM, wearing the UCLA sweatshirts... (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
Bon walks in his socked feet to his position, between the two cars nearest to the... (full context)
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...the living room with two glasses and a bottle of rye. In the living room, Bon empties the contents of the crapulent major’s wallet. Inside, there’s a color photo of the... (full context)
Chapter 12
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...been reserved for his immediate departure from the Philippines. When he arrives in Los Angeles, Bon is waiting for him at the airport. Back at their apartment, the narrator has another... (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
The narrator pours himself a cup of tea. He asks if Bon is a part of this invasion team. The General says that he is. Bon is... (full context)
Chapter 13
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...are, and volunteering to give up everything because they have nothing. Some of them, like Bon, are “certifiably insane” and have volunteered for the reconnaissance mission to Thailand. Like Bon, they... (full context)
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
Before embarking on a ten-mile hike, the narrator and Bon smoke a cigarette. The narrator talks about the soldiers who confess to having no intention... (full context)
Chapter 14
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Cultural Duality Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 15
Cultural Duality Theme Icon
...he takes her guitar and serenades her with Vietnamese songs. When the narrator talks to Bon about it at the liquor store, he asks the narrator what he’s going to do... (full context)
Chapter 16
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...sending it to hell or making an offering to a deity who’ll keep him and Bon safe. (full context)
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
While playing pool at a billiards hall the following night, the narrator tells Bon about the General’s offer. Bon calls him an idiot for wanting to go back. He... (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...blond wig, a pair of tinted glasses, and a black Walther P22 with a silencer. Bon bought the gun with a packet of cash from the General. (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...fingerprints off of the bourbon glass. When he bends down to touch Sonny’s eye, as Bon once instructed to ensure that someone is dead, the body shudders. The narrator shoots Sonny... (full context)
Chapter 17
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
The next morning, Bon soothes the narrator with a bottle of scotch. Drinking turns out to be the best... (full context)
Cultural Duality Theme Icon
Bon tells the narrator that they’re going back to the land where everyone looks like them.... (full context)
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
Claude ushers the narrator and Bon into a van. He tells them that he’ll keep them awake to help them get... (full context)
Asian Identity in the United States Theme Icon
The narrator asks Bon what he thinks of the movie. Bon says that it was the narrator’s job to... (full context)
Cultural Duality Theme Icon
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Before falling asleep, the narrator thinks back to his and Bon’s departure from Los Angeles. The General and Madame saw everyone off at the airport. The... (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
The next morning, back in Thailand, Bon and the narrator awake before sunrise. Claude drives them to the camp near the Laotian... (full context)
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...for decades, if necessary. In God’s eyes, he concludes, this is “no time at all.” Bon asks if he really thinks that they can get their country back. The admiral says... (full context)
Chapter 18
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
Bon and the narrator spend two weeks getting used to the weather and their new comrades—three... (full context)
Cultural Duality Theme Icon
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
...what belonged to or came from the General. The affectless lieutenant gets up to pee. Bon asks if the narrator is okay and he nods. The lieutenant returns. As he begins... (full context)
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...Mekong River. It would take four trips to transport all of them across. When it’s Bon and the narrator’s turn to cross, the narrator can feel the ghosts of Sonny and... (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...marine goes flying into the shallow water, where he lies, not quite dead and screaming. Bon pulls the narrator down. He commands the narrator to shoot. The narrator lifts the gun... (full context)
Chapter 19
Cultural Duality Theme Icon
...goes on to say that they could have simply shot all of the prisoners, particularly Bon. However, the Commissar believes that they can all be rehabilitated. He then says that the... (full context)
Chapter 20
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...him not to come back. The narrator reiterates that he had to return to protect Bon. When Man realized that his blood brothers would be returning, he asked to be made... (full context)
Chapter 22
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...narrator leave after he redeems himself. That leaves the matter of what will happen to Bon. The narrator says that he won’t leave without Bon. Man surmises that the narrator will... (full context)
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...apologizes for being selfish in wishing for death. If he dies, then the narrator and Bon will surely die too. The Commandant can’t wait to drag Bon out to a firing... (full context)
Chapter 23
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...quarters for the last time. Man uneasily offers the narrator tea. He announces that both Bon and the narrator are leaving the camp and the country. A truck awaits them at... (full context)
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...independence and freedom. On the evening of their departure from Vietnam, the narrator pays for Bon’s fare and his own. They’ll travel by bus to a village three hours south, where... (full context)
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
The narrator, Bon, and their navigator will then get onboard a skiff and glide across the river to... (full context)