The Sympathizer

The Sympathizer

by

Viet Thanh Nguyen

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Son Do (“Sonny”) Character Analysis

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 his parents that he would liberate the country from the United States. He once reported for an Orange County newspaper and lived in a town called Westminster. He edits a newspaper that serves the Vietnamese community. Moved by the refugee plight, he started the newspaper, which is the first to print news in Vietnamese. He is a “naked leftist” who thinks that he’s always right, and is always eager to address an opponent’s inconsistencies. Depending on one’s perspective, he was either self-confident or arrogant during his school days. His grandfather was a mandarin, or a traditionalist elder, who loathed the French. He became so politically inflammatory that the colonizers sent him “on a one-way berth to Tahiti,” where he supposedly befriended the painter Paul Gauguin, then died either of dengue fever or “an incurable strain of virulent homesickness.” As a student, Sonny led the antiwar faction of Vietnamese foreign students, which assembled each month in the student union or in someone’s apartment. Sonny later becomes involved with the narrator’s former lover, Sofia Mori. Concerned about the impact of some of his reporting, the General orders the narrator to kill Sonny. The narrator goes to Sonny’s apartment and fatally shoots him five times.

Son Do (“Sonny”) Quotes in The Sympathizer

The The Sympathizer quotes below are all either spoken by Son Do (“Sonny”) or refer to Son Do (“Sonny”). 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 13 Quotes

After the war ended and he was freed, he thought he’d go back to his people, the way that he’d been told to all his life by white people, even though he was born here. So he went and found out that the people in Japan didn’t think he was one of them, either. To them he's one of us, and to us he's one of them. Neither one thing nor another.

Related Characters: Ms. Sofia Mori (speaker), The Narrator, Abe Mori , Son Do (“Sonny”)
Page Number: 214
Explanation and Analysis:
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Son Do (“Sonny”) Character Timeline in The Sympathizer

The timeline below shows where the character Son Do (“Sonny”) appears in The Sympathizer. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 6
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...interviewed by a man that the narrator doesn’t recognize at first. It’s Son Do, or Sonny, as he’s nicknamed. (full context)
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
The narrator last saw Sonny in 1969, during the narrator’s final year in the U.S. They shake hands. Madame tells... (full context)
Chapter 7
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...the bride and groom will marry—that is, very far away, near the restrooms. He spots Sonny “at a table several rings closer to the center of power.” (full context)
Cultural Duality Theme Icon
Asian Identity in the United States Theme Icon
The narrator turns around to find Sonny talking to Sofia. He writes down her quips and they talk about how impressed Asians... (full context)
Chapter 8
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...kitchen countertop and asks the narrator if he’s seen it. The General is disturbed by Sonny’s article on the crapulent major’s funeral and his coverage of the wedding that the narrator... (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
The narrator surmises that Sonny’s doing his job, though he may be a bit “naïve” in how he’s going about... (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
...narrator suggests forming a “vanguard” that will work in secret. The General decides to turn Sonny’s newspaper into a front organization, along with starting a youth group, a women’s group, and... (full context)
Chapter 12
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...keeps its distance from the narrator by sitting on the futon, is now sitting on Sonny’s lap. Sonny is sitting on the futon. He extends his hand, saying that it’s good... (full context)
Chapter 13
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
The narrator isn’t surprised that Sonny and Sofia are now a couple. He was in the Philippines for seven months and... (full context)
Cultural Duality Theme Icon
Sonny leans over the photo album and points out her relatives by name, including Abe, presumably... (full context)
Cultural Duality Theme Icon
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...and decides to change the subject of conversation. He recalls the speeches about revolution that Sonny made back in their college days. The narrator asks why Sonny doesn’t go back to... (full context)
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
The narrator can’t believe that he’s finally won an argument with Sonny, something he never did in their college days. Sofia looks into Sonny’s eyes and assures... (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...have already spread about the General’s new army. During the narrator’s visit to Sofia’s place, Sonny mentions reports about the secret army. The narrator claims not to have heard about it,... (full context)
Chapter 14
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
The narrator wonders if his questioning of Sonny’s courage pushed Sonny to write the following headline in his newspaper: “Move On, War Over.”... (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...and the narrator pours him a double of scotch. The General leans forward and taps Sonny’s newspaper, asking if the narrator has read it. (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
The General isn’t sure if Sonny is a journalist or a Communist sent by the North Vietnamese to spy on the... (full context)
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... (full context)
Chapter 15
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...he and the narrator leave. He knows that the General is preoccupied with thinking about Sonny, whose article about “the alleged operations of the Fraternity and the Movement” has become well-known... (full context)
Chapter 16
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...not and talks to the narrator directly about what it will be like to kill Sonny. He thinks that Sonny’s getting what he deserves for having a big mouth. Bon says,... (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 the corner from... (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...watch. It’s a little past 9:00 PM. He rings the intercom. He announces himself and Sonny buzzes him in. He takes the stairs to the second-floor apartment and peeks into the... (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
Sonny is sorry that he and the narrator have never had a proper talk about Sofia.... (full context)
Cultural Duality Theme Icon
Asian Identity in the United States Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
Sonny sips his bourbon and says that he promises not to talk anymore about politics, though... (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
Sonny says that he knows that he probably won’t have a child with Sofia, but he... (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
The narrator insists that he’s trying to help Sonny, who believes that the General has sent the narrator. Sonny also thinks that the narrator... (full context)
Chapter 17
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...would feel better after a night with Lana. He went back to her after leaving Sonny’s apartment, but even “an unforgettable evening with her” didn’t help him forget. The next day,... (full context)
Chapter 18
Cultural Duality Theme Icon
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
...branches. He feels like he’s inside of a snow globe being shaken and watched by Sonny and the crapulent major. The narrator wishes that he told the General that he had... (full context)
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...affectless lieutenant’s body into a grave. As the narrator kneels by the grave, he sees Sonny’s ghost squatting beside him and the crapulent major’s head sticking out of the grave. By... (full context)
Chapter 21
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...privacy with “the patient.” Everyone else leaves the room. The narrator sees the ghosts of Sonny and the crapulent major in one corner of the room. The Commissar leans forward and... (full context)
Chapter 22
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...of doing nothing. The Commandant says that the injuries that the crapulent major and that Sonny suffered are not equal to those suffered by the Communist agent. She couldn’t walk when... (full context)
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...it toward his own, but he doesn’t have the strength. He sees the ghosts of Sonny and the crapulent major behind Man. They stare with longing at the gun, wanting to... (full context)