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The Sympathizer’s main character, is an unnamed half-French and half-Vietnamese spy. The main character is an aide-de-camp to the general in the Special Branch, the central intelligence organization of the anti-Communist South Vietnamese Army. The narrator is shown as a trusted member of the generals circle, it is quickly revealed to the reader that the narrator is a spy sent by the Communists to spy on all activities by the Special Branch in the United States. The Special Branch successfully escapes from Saigon, with the general, his family, and Bon, who is one of the narrator’s childhood friends. Man, the narrator’s other childhood friend decides to stay in Vietnam to lead the new Communist regime. Bon is not aware of his friends’ true political beliefs.
In Los Angeles, the narrator starts working at the Department of Oriental studies as an assistant, where he meets Ms. Mori. The narrator starts talking to Sonny, a classmate from Occidental college, who is a local newspaper editor. The narrator keeps Man updated with the branch’s activities using invisible ink to write letters. The general, is having a hard time adjusting to life in United States, he begins to assemble Vietnamese people in America that are willing to return home. To raise funds for this mission, the General opens a liquor store. The general confesses to the narrator, that he believes there is a Communist sympathizer in their midst, the narrator, trying not to look suspicious, the narrator quickly blurts out the crapulent major is the spy. The General accepts his suggestion, and tells the narrator to plan for his murder.
The narrator, still feeling guilty about the murder, is presented with the opportunity to distract himself; through the Congressman’s Hollywood connections, the narrator is asked to serve as an advisor on a movie called The Hamlet. The narrator is to be on set of the movie and make sure the Vietnamese people are represented correctly on the movie. The Auteur was making the story revolving around the Americans and the Vietnamese people’s concerns were secondary. The Auteur does not take the narrator’s criticisms kindly, and the narrator is hurt in an “accidental” explosion on the movie set. The movie studio pays the narrator a settlement fee in hopes the narrator doesn’t sue the studio. The general, in Los Angeles, keeps furthering his planning on re-entering the country through Thailand’s jungle. Bon decides to volunteer and go on the general’s mission, the narrator, concerned about Bon, wants to go on the mission to help protect Bon. Sonny, the narrator’s friend who is a newspaper editor, starts reporting on the mission, potentially exposing it, the general tells the narrator to kill Sonny. The narrator proves himself to the general by killing Sonny, the general grants the narrators wish and sends him to Thailand.
In Thailand, the group is found by the Communists within a day and a half. The group is ambushed, and the only survivors are Bon and the narrator, who are taken to a Communist “reeducation camp”. The Commandant, who is responsible for the editing and re-editing of the narrator’s book, tells him it is nearly sufficient. The Commissar is responsible of supervising the narrator’s last stage of reeducation. The reader finds out, Man is the Commissar, and the last stage of the reeducation includes sleep deprivation. The narrator is tortured and not allowed to sleep to help access a part of his brain where things he has forgotten lurk. The sleep deprivation causes the narrator to become unhinged, this causes him to remember a repressed memory; the narrator witnessed a brutal gang rape of a Communist agent, who he helped arrest, and was unsuccessful in helping escape. The torture drives the narrator crazy and it ends with the narrator joining “the boat people”, heading out to sea.
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