The Sympathizer

The Sympathizer

by

Viet Thanh Nguyen

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The Crapulent Major Character Analysis

A fat bon vivant who enjoys good food and drink, particularly the Chinese restaurants in Cholon—this is why the narrator refers to him as “crapulent,” meaning over-indulgent in drinking and eating. The major is of Chinese descent and one of five officers whom the narrator chooses for evacuation after the fall of Saigon. At Special Branch in Saigon, his job is “to analyze Chinese-language communication and to keep track of the subterranean subterfuges of Cholon, where the National Liberation Front had constructed an underground network for political agitation, terrorist organizing, and black market smuggling.” For the narrator, the major is his source of information for where he can locate the best Chinese food in Cholon. He serves the same purpose in Greater Los Angeles. The General dislikes and mistrusts him, though his distaste seems to be most directly related to the major’s weight. The major has twins, conceived at a refugee camp, whom he and his wife have named Spinach and Broccoli. He named the first in honor of Popeye’s secret weapon and the latter after watching American commercials that promoted broccoli as an important source of nourishment. In California, the major takes a job as a gas station attendant. Bon shoots and kills the major on the Fourth of July.
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The Crapulent Major Character Timeline in The Sympathizer

The timeline below shows where the character The Crapulent Major 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
...He summons five officers to meet with him, one by one. One of them is the "crapulent" major . As the narrator finishes his meetings, he hears distant booms, which rattle the windows.... (full context)
Chapter 4
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...their men could be the spy. To sidetrack the General, he names an unlikely candidate: the crapulent major . The General doesn’t agree with the narrator’s supposed instinct. The narrator returns to his... (full context)
Chapter 5
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
...ranks. The General and Claude look at the narrator, as if for confirmation. He names the crapulent major . Claude says that he doesn’t know him. The General remarks that he’s not a... (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 that he’s not a racist... (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 store is empty, except... (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...easier to get a gun in America than it is to vote or drive. Ironically, the crapulent major secured the connection with the Chinese gangs in Chinatown who got Bon access to firearms.... (full context)
Chapter 6
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
The narrator commiserates with the crapulent major about how unhappy he is in Los Angeles. When the narrator suggests moving, the major... (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
The crapulent major currently works as a gas station attendant in Monterey Park, while his wife sews in... (full context)
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...both love and the prospect of killing. The narrator wants to persuade the General that the crapulent major isn’t a spy, but he knows it’s too late. The only thing left for the... (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...on the sidewalk. The narrator discusses his feelings of guilt about the impending murder of the crapulent major . Claude insists that the major probably has some blood on his hands. Everyone is... (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
The next evening, the narrator scouts the crapulent major . He parks his car half a block from the gas station and waits until... (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...a past incident in Cholon, involving the arrest of a Communist suspect, a tax collector. The crapulent major ’s men entered the tax collector’s shop and pushed past his wife to reach the... (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...affixed to it. Fireworks explode in the distance. Bon is tense while they wait for the crapulent major . At eight, the major leaves the gas station. They start the car and drive... (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...he’s doing. The narrator thinks to himself that it’s too late to turn back. As the crapulent major approaches, the narrator greets him and lifts the bag, offering it as a Fourth of... (full context)
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...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 major’s twins at a few weeks... (full context)
Chapter 7
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
The narrator confesses to the Commandant that the crapulent major ’s death troubles him. Worse, no longer in Saigon, he can’t engage in his weekly... (full context)
Cultural Duality Theme Icon
Asian Identity in the United States Theme Icon
The narrator thinks that he sees the severed head of the crapulent major serving as the table’s centerpiece. To distract himself, he drinks and explains the customs of... (full context)
Chapter 8
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...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 attended. On the major’s... (full context)
Chapter 9
Cultural Duality Theme Icon
Asian Identity in the United States Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...narrator has been feeling better about his past sins. He believes that he has put the crapulent major ’s death behind him. Before he left Los Angeles, Sofia cooked him a farewell dinner,... (full context)
Chapter 11
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...tombstone that he reserved for her to say goodbye. He hears “the disembodied voice of the crapulent major , chuckling.” A giant clap of noise suddenly deafens the narrator. He then feels a... (full context)
Chapter 12
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...Madame. He drives to Monterey Park later that afternoon. There, he has an appointment with the crapulent major ’s widow. He plans to give her the money. The narrator doesn’t believe in God,... (full context)
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
The crapulent major ’s widow opens the door and exclaims about how good it is to see the... (full context)
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
The narrator wonders, if she could see him now in the crapulent major ’s old apartment, if his mother would still consider him one of the meek. After... (full context)
Chapter 17
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...On the plane out of the country, the narrator feels that he’s sharing space with the crapulent major ’s ghost on one side of him and Sonny’s on the other. He thinks about... (full context)
Chapter 18
Cultural Duality Theme Icon
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
...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 already had sex... (full context)
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...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 late evening, after a short march, they... (full context)
Chapter 21
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...“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 shows the narrator the... (full context)
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
The crapulent major was in charge of the interrogation, but he abdicated his role to the three policemen... (full context)
Chapter 22
Loyalty vs. Duplicity Theme Icon
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...who’s guilty of the crime 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... (full context)
Moral Ambivalence and Purpose Theme Icon
...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 shoot the narrator. Man... (full context)