Questions for Discussion


Questions about Refugeeism

  1. How does the novel portray the life and struggles of a refugee? While many stories of refugees portray them as being forced out of their country by a hostile regime, the Narrator of The Sympathizer is actually a part of the victorious regime. How does this unique perspective alter the typical portrayal of a refugee in the novel?
  2. The Narrator ironically ends the novel as a refugee once again, this time forced out by the very government he helped to install, how does this ending affect your understanding of the themes of the novel? Does it enhance them or complicate them?

Questions about the Portrayal of War

  1. The Sympathizer satirizes the American film industry and how it exploits those affected by war by forcing them into secondary or even non-existent roles whenever war is portrayed in film. Even films which attempt to problematize American involvement in war manage to work for the American propaganda machine. How does the Narrator’s attempts to give the Vietnamese proper representation in film work to undermine this? Why is representation so important to the Narrator?
  2. The Auteur insists on including a controversial scene of a Vietnamese woman being raped in The Hamlet, insisting on the fact that such a thing gives the film a degree of “authenticity” in its portrayal of war. Do you think such a thing is accurate or is it only an attempt to demonize the Viet Cong in the film? Why would the Auteur insist on the inclusion of such a scene?
  3. The Narrator makes a point to explain that Vietnam is being exploited by the American film industry. What do you think he means by this? How does the portrayal of a war in the media affect public perception of a war?

Questions about Identity

  1. The Narrator is the son of a white European and a Vietnamese woman. How does his mixed-race status affect his narration and perspective throughout the novel?
  2. The Narrator is contrasted with the character of Ms. Mori during her initial appearances. How does Ms. Mori’s views on her identity differ from the Narrator’s, and how do they impact your understanding of the theme of identity in the novel?


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William Eichler ’19

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