The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen Summary Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of The Sympathizer

Plot Summary Part 1

We are never told the name of the main character of this book; he is only referred to as "Captain". He is a half-Vietnamese half French man living in Vietnam during the fall of Saigon. He works for a senior officer called "The General". But he is secretly a spy for communist North Vietnam.

The story opens in Vietnam near the end of the war when the Captain is serving as a trusted aid to the General. Claude, their CIA contact, offers them an escape route on a transport plane. Claude has told them he is 1/16th black, which, to the Captain, explains why Claude is such a good dancer and singer. The Captain is not just a communist, he's a racist communist!

The communist forces are closing in on the airport when the General and his followers pack the plane. The Captain, of course, has notified the communists of when and where the General was departing from.

Click here to see the rest of this review

But here is the first confusing part. The Captain has been ordered to accompany the General to America to continue spying on him. But then the communists attack his plane as it is leaving. Why would they do that while ordering the Captain to go with the General? It looks like the communists were trying to kill the General and as a backup plan only have the Captain accompany him if he got away. In that case the Captain should be resentful because his information was used to try and kill the General, and himself as well, while he was accompanying the General. But the Captain showed no such resentment.

The first plane they boarded burst into flames on the ground and they escaped, under heavy gunfire, into a second plane. During this time Bon's wife and child were killed. The Captain helped Bon get onto the plane and saved his life even though Bon hates communists. This is the first of many examples of the Captain showing protectiveness for Bon even though Bon was an anti-communist.

When they got to the safety of Guam, one of the civilians start to beat the General with a slipper. She was angry that the General hadn't protected them. Can you imagine smacking an important General with a slipper? Wack, wack!


Meanwhile, the Captain gets an administrative job at a university and starts having sex with an older woman. Because she is older he calls her "Ms.", as in "Ms. Mori", with whom the Captain engages in "Sweaty, condomless intercourse" twice per week. When the Captain tells Ms. Mori that he is falling in love with her, she informs him that they are having sex with no emotions attached.  This is what she calls "free love". The Captain was still grateful to have a woman to put his sperm into. As he noted, under communism everything was free except for sex, which he saw as an oversight of the system.

The Captain thought back to the time he masturbated with one of his mother's dinner entrees, a squid. He put his small Asian p_nis into it and rubbed it back and forth, spraying it with sperm when she wasn't around. Then he washed it off and put it back in the fridge, but marked it so he could identify it later.

At dinner that night he made sure to select the squid he had marked and he ate it. This shows that the Captain was a man of morals. He didn't want any family member to unknowingly eat his own sperm.

Meanwhile, the General tells the Captain he believes there is a commie spy in their ranks and asks the Captain to name who it might be. Of course we know the commie spy is the Captain himself, but the Captain names some random Major. The General tells the Captain to kill him. (They are in Los Angeles now.)

The Captain's friend Bon agrees to do the killing for him.

Click below for more about The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
Plot pg1 Plot pg2 Plot pg3 Plot pg4
Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
2 Ways to Search!

Our Chief Librarian