The Sympathizer

The Sympathizer

by

Viet Thanh Nguyen

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Claude Character Analysis

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 meet when Claude finds the nineteen-year-old narrator on a refugee barge in 1954. Claude presented himself as someone working for refugee relief. He is actually in the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which, in the 1950s, was called the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Currently, his cover is working in the American embassy to promote the development of tourism in Vietnam. He trained the narrator in interrogation tactics and worked with him at the National Interrogation Center in Saigon. Claude speaks poor Vietnamese and worse French, though he speaks excellent English. He is six-two and has perfect vision. He keeps in shape by doing two hundred push-ups each morning with his houseboy squatting on his back. He’s an avid reader, particularly of the work of the English scholar, Dr. Richard Hedd. In Vietnam, he had a girlfriend named Kim, who he had to leave behind after the fall of Saigon. When the narrator sees Claude again in Los Angeles at Professor Hammer’s home, he looks the same, aside from gaining a few pounds.
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Claude Character Timeline in The Sympathizer

The timeline below shows where the character Claude 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
...once given for free. Madame suggests that the General and the narrator ask their friend, Claude, for a plane to help them escape. Claude says that the best he can do... (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
The General then asks Claude if his staff will be evacuated. Claude says that, officially, there will be no evacuations... (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
Claude reminds the General that he’s lucky to get a plane. Other generals are only getting... (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...the former South Vietnamese president flees for Taiwan with “a hefty share” of Vietnam’s gold. Claude calls the next morning to say that the plane he assigned to the General will... (full context)
Chapter 5
Cultural Duality Theme Icon
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
...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 the narrator enters, Claude... (full context)
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
Claude talks about his escape from Vietnam on the ambassador’s helicopter. He talks about leaving behind... (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
The General tells Claude that they have a problem—a spy in their ranks. The General and Claude look at... (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
Claude insists that the crapulent major isn’t a spy just because he’s Chinese. The General insists... (full context)
Chapter 6
Cultural Duality Theme Icon
Asian Identity in the United States Theme Icon
...it’s the best undergraduate thesis he’s ever read. The narrator smiles demurely and says thanks. Claude snorts, saying that he never cared for the book. He finds the Vietnamese girl in... (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
The narrator and Claude leave Professor Hammer’s house near midnight and smoke farewell cigarettes on the sidewalk. The narrator... (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...The point of writing this part of the confession to the Commandant is to prove Claude’s point that the crapulent major, too, was sinful. The Vietnamese regard extortion as an average... (full context)
Chapter 8
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
The General insists that the war isn’t dead, and that Claude and the Congressman are among many allies. The General has a list of officers who... (full context)
Chapter 10
Asian Identity in the United States Theme Icon
...him and Binh. They castrate Attucks and stuff his genitals into his mouth. According to Claude, this was something that some Native American tribes did to “trespassing white settlers.” Claude finds... (full context)
Asian Identity in the United States Theme Icon
...much worse; the narrator agrees. While training for the secret police, the narrator learned from Claude that brute force only gets an interrogator bad answers. Yoon asks for some water and... (full context)
Chapter 11
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...ever been in: the room at the National Interrogation Center back in Saigon. He and Claude tortured their prisoner there with an endless loop of music that he wouldn’t be able... (full context)
Cultural Duality Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
Claude praised the narrator’s work. The narrator felt like a good student, happy for Claude’s praise,... (full context)
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...white wall. He was wearing white shorts and a white T-shirt. When the narrator and Claude rolled him over, they saw that his face was purple and his eyes bulged. Deep... (full context)
Chapter 12
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...Thailand. They’ll link up with their forward field base and make their way into Vietnam. Claude says that the time is nearly right for an invasion. (full context)
Chapter 15
Cultural Duality Theme Icon
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
...success in getting money from a handful of organizations to which he’s been introduced through Claude, as well as his own contacts among Americans who’ve visited Vietnam or done tours of... (full context)
Chapter 17
Cultural Duality Theme Icon
...gave the keys to their apartment to Reverend Ramon and told him to sell everything. Claude and the admiral in charge of the base camp will handle their needs. It’s Claude,... (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... (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 border. There, the narrator sees the last... (full context)
Chapter 18
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...speeches, along with James Taylor and Donna Summer songs. When the narrator says goodbye to Claude, his mentor reminds him to keep his head down and to leave the fighting to... (full context)
Chapter 21
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...roped to the table’s four legs. The movie screen serves as a backdrop from which Claude watches the agent’s interrogation with the help of a projector. (full context)