The Sympathizer

The Sympathizer

by

Viet Thanh Nguyen

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Sympathizer can help.

Lan (“Lana”) Character Analysis

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. Her parents initially refused to let her attend, due to their belief that the school was “a communist colony.” For each time that they refused, she attempted suicide—first by swallowing a fistful of pills and then by jumping into the Saigon River. When her parents concede, she flies to California in the fall of 1972 to begin her studies in Art History. She graduates from Berkeley, cum laude. Her parents are scandalized when she returns to Vietnam, dressed in bell bottoms and tight-fitting tops. She expresses a desire to become a singer. The narrator sees her again, for the first time since she was a school girl, when she performs as a back-up singer at a wedding. She moves to Brentwood, a wealthy enclave of Los Angeles, and works in an art gallery while continuing to pursue her singing ambitions. She is politically progressive and has had numerous boyfriends. While the narrator thinks that she has talent as a performer, her parents detest her sexually suggestive behavior on- and off-stage. The narrator is very attracted to her and they have one sexual encounter on the night that he kills Sonny.

Lan (“Lana”) Quotes in The Sympathizer

The The Sympathizer quotes below are all either spoken by Lan (“Lana”) or refer to Lan (“Lana”). 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

Bang bang was the sound of memory's pistol firing into our heads, for we could not forget love, we could not forget war, we could not forget lovers, we could not forget enemies, we could not forget home, and we could not forget Saigon […] men who had died or disappeared; the streets and homes blown away by bombshells; the streams where we swam naked and laughing; the secret grove where we spied on the nymphs who bathed and splashed with the innocence of the birds […] the barking of a hungry dog in an abandoned village; the appetizing reek of the fresh durian one wept to eat; the sight and sound of orphans howling by the dead bodies of their mothers and fathers; the stickiness of one's shirt by afternoon the stickiness of one’s lover by the end of lovemaking, the stickiness of our situations […] the hills afire with sunset […] the most important thing we could never forget was that we could never forget.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Lan (“Lana”)
Page Number: 238-239
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Sympathizer LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Sympathizer PDF

Lan (“Lana”) Character Timeline in The Sympathizer

The timeline below shows where the character Lan (“Lana”) appears in The Sympathizer. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 7
Cultural Duality Theme Icon
Asian Identity in the United States Theme Icon
...people to Sofia. He then takes her to the dance floor. From there, he sees Lana, who is one of the two female singers taking turns at the microphone with the... (full context)
Cultural Duality Theme Icon
Asian Identity in the United States Theme Icon
...with her husband. They both look as though they’ve been sucking on sour fruit. Meanwhile, Lana rotates her hips, riveting the attention of the men in the crowd. The narrator and... (full context)
Asian Identity in the United States Theme Icon
...During the hour-long drive, they talk mostly about the Congressman. When the narrator asks about Lana, Madame’s face darkens “with barely repressed fury.” She declares her daughter “insane” and says that... (full context)
Asian Identity in the United States Theme Icon
At lunch, the conversation turns back to Lana. Rita, the Congressman’s wife, sympathizes. She has strict rules for her own children. The Congressman... (full context)
Chapter 9
Cultural Duality Theme Icon
Asian Identity in the United States Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...and he began to think that he loves her. However, he also has feelings for Lana. During dinner, Ms. Mori reminds him of their commitment to free love. After they have... (full context)
Chapter 14
Cultural Duality Theme Icon
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,... (full context)
Cultural Duality Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Cultural Duality Theme Icon
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
When Lana finishes the song, the audience claps, whistles, and stomps. The narrator sits silently, stunned by... (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
Lana says that her parents fear that singing will ruin her for marriage. They want her... (full context)
Chapter 15
Cultural Duality Theme Icon
The narrator pursues Lana by writing her letters in the perfect cursive taught to him by overbearing nuns, composing... (full context)
Chapter 16
Cultural Duality Theme Icon
The narrator goes to Lana for solace. He arrives at her apartment with a bottle of wine. He looks out... (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
The narrator spends an hour driving from Lana’s apartment to Sonny’s. He breathes deeply to control his nervousness. He parks his car around... (full context)
Chapter 17
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...the best cure. The narrator thought that he would feel better after a night with Lana. He went back to her after leaving Sonny’s apartment, but even “an unforgettable evening with... (full context)
Cultural Duality Theme Icon
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
...narrator as an adopted son, but there were rumors that the narrator tried to seduce Lana, and the General was disgusted. The narrator lived in their house and treated Lana as... (full context)
Chapter 18
Cultural Duality Theme Icon
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
...The narrator wishes that he told the General that he had already had sex with Lana, just to prove that nothing was forbidden to him, not even what belonged to or... (full context)