The Sympathizer

The Sympathizer

by

Viet Thanh Nguyen

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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 delicate-looking woman, making her “the ideal Vietnamese woman.” The General is happily married to her. When she and the General settle in Los Angeles with their family, she is the one who finds schools for the children, ensures that the rent is paid, shops for groceries, cooks, does all the chores, and finds a church while her husband undergoes a personal crisis. Later, she opens a pho restaurant, using the profits to help her husband fund his guerrilla army in Vietnam.

Madame Quotes in The Sympathizer

The The Sympathizer quotes below are all either spoken by Madame or refer to Madame. 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 8 Quotes

I had failed and the Auteur would make The Hamlet as he intended with my countrymen serving merely as raw material for an epic about white men saving good yellow people from bad yellow people. I pitied the French for their naiveté in believing they had to visit a country in order to exploit it. Hollywood was much more efficient, imagining the countries it wanted to exploit. I was maddened by my helplessness before the Auteur's imagination and machinations. His arrogance marked something new in the world, for this was the first war where the losers would write history instead of the victors, courtesy of the most efficient propaganda machine ever created […] In this forthcoming Hollywood trompe l’oeil, all the Vietnamese of any side would come out poorly, herded into the roles of the poor, the innocent, the evil, or the corrupt. Our fate was not to be merely mute; we were to be struck dumb.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), The General, Madame, The Auteur, Violet
Page Number: 134
Explanation and Analysis:
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Madame Character Timeline in The Sympathizer

The timeline below shows where the character Madame appears in The Sympathizer. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Cultural Duality Theme Icon
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...the time the narrator was living in a villa with the General and his wife, Madame. In March of 1975, the South Vietnamese Army’s northern front collapses, and the narrator and... (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...spare parts for the weapons, planes, and tanks” that they had once given for free. Madame suggests that the General and the narrator ask their friend, Claude, for a plane to... (full context)
Chapter 2 
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...is to say goodbye to his staff, some of whom ask to come along, though Madame refuses. Instead, she gives each staff member “an envelope of dollars” with “its thickness appropriate... (full context)
Chapter 4
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...down. After he helps Bon out, they pour dirt onto the coffins, while the General, Madame, and the priest watch silently. (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
The General and Madame also end up in Los Angeles, sponsored by the sister-in-law of an American colonel who... (full context)
Chapter 6
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...a harmless man. The narrator makes his way back to the General, who’s standing by Madame. He’s being interviewed by a man that the narrator doesn’t recognize at first. It’s Son... (full context)
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...saw Sonny in 1969, during the narrator’s final year in the U.S. They shake hands. Madame tells the narrator that Sonny is interviewing them for his newspaper. Sonny offers the narrator... (full context)
Chapter 7
Cultural Duality Theme Icon
Asian Identity in the United States Theme Icon
The narrator looks toward the General and Madame’s table. Madame, who usually enjoys doing the twist, remains seated with her husband. They both... (full context)
Asian Identity in the United States Theme Icon
The next weekend, the narrator chauffeurs the General and Madame from Hollywood to Huntington Beach, where the Congressman lives. He has invited them to lunch.... (full context)
Chapter 8
Asian Identity in the United States Theme Icon
...the General’s house, thirty blocks away and down the hills. He tells the General and Madame about his experience with the Auteur. Both are angry about the Auteur’s dismissive attitude. The... (full context)
Asian Identity in the United States Theme Icon
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Back at the General’s house, Madame asks the narrator why the Auteur was so rude. The narrator figures that the director... (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
...of reporting facts. When the narrator mentions that Sonny isn’t exactly wrong about the major, Madame becomes offended and questions his loyalty. She says that “the best newspaper policy” is one... (full context)
Chapter 12
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...The Hamlet is complete. More importantly, the South Vietnamese movement has established a revenue source: Madame is opening a restaurant. (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
Though it may be a hole-in-the-wall, the General notes that Madame’s restaurant will be the first Vietnamese restaurant in the city. He says that refugees all... (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...a beer and offers one to the narrator, who notices their clock and says to Madame, who fetches the beer, that it’s set to the wrong time. She says that it... (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...an envelope in his pocket at the time that he’s chatting with the General and Madame. He drives to Monterey Park later that afternoon. There, he has an appointment with the... (full context)
Chapter 14
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 16
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...notices, “on the wall above the table,” the same clock as in the General and Madame’s restaurant, also set to Saigon time. (full context)
Chapter 17
Cultural Duality Theme Icon
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
...the narrator thinks back to his and Bon’s departure from Los Angeles. The General and Madame saw everyone off at the airport. The General presented his four volunteers, including Bon and... (full context)