A Decolonial View

By students in the Colonial and Postcolonial Master

The Tragedy of Dual Identities in The Sympathizer


The Sympathizer is a novel about a secret agent’s confession, upholding the rapid evacuation before the fall of Saigon. Through the protagonist’s eyes, it tells his struggle of duality because he is a half-breed, with a Vietnamese mother and a French father. His mother’s love substitutes for the absence of the father even if his birth comes from a rape instead of love. Fortunately, his mother devotes all love to him, and his childhood friends, Man and Bon bring true friendship in his adolescence. Man, and the protagonist, motivated by sympathy, choose to be members of communists for the Viet Cong; contrastingly, Bon stands at the side of anti-communism. Inevitably, being a member of the Communists is a secret although Bon is after them like shadows. Shortly after, the fall of Saigon determines the protagonist and Bon’s exile, but the protagonist has a secret mission of spying on the General, an influential military figure in South Vietnam. After the General arrives in America, he manages a liquor store, where he tries to bring other Vietnamese together because the General plans to take back control of Vietnam. Unlike the General who has high expectations, the protagonist feels bewildered by the new land. Life in America primes the protagonist to question capitalism, however, his career in a university provides him with various views from anti-communists. It is to say, his belief in communism is challenged by his favor and depends on American customs and amenities. In this context, he wanders around two distinct ideologies with “two faces” as “a man with two minds”. (Nguyen 11)

Nevertheless, Bon cannot forget the blood feud between his family and the Communists. The miserable memory reminds Bon to take revenge on the Viet Cong. Therefore, Bon accepts the General’s order to help the General take back the control in Vietnam in the future. The protagonist is so torn that he decides to follow Bon even if Man commands him to stay in the US. The reason for his insistence comes from a chink of hope to save Bon from the Viet Cong if anything happens. His sympathy determines the tragedy because soon they find out Man is responsible for their interrogations. During the interrogations, Man’s behavior is rarely a friend’s because the divided loyalty leads them to a breach of companionship. Eventually, the story indicates emptiness by the unhinged minds of the protagonist. 

The portrayals of the novel tell the different political ideology that brings the breach of friendship even if their friendship is firm in the past. Nevertheless, political beliefs affect all of them, particularly in the protagonist’s mind. In the novel, the plots offer the readers no threads to the protagonist’s name. Seemingly, the protagonist is nameless because of not only his illegitimate birth but his secret agent. What he wanders around the Viet Cong and South Vietnam has rooted in the tragedy ultimately even if it is the last thing they expect to face. It is as the Greek tragedy in Antigone, “The one we love… are enemies of the state.” Yes. Their friendship deteriorates merely owing to the dualities of political beliefs. The narratives of the story are mirrored what we face at the present that different political ideologies occur conflicts between each other. This phenomenon is thought-provoking, particularly in the present time.

Cheng-Fen Wang


Works Cited

Nguyen, Viet Thanh, (2015), The Sympathizer

To solve or not to solve, that is the question


Recently I saw a video on social media of a discussion between Ms. Masih
Alinejad, a women activist and journalist, and Ms. Ann Linde, the Swedish
Foreign Minister, which was very interesting to me. In this interview, Masih
Alinejad strongly criticizes Ms. Linde for wearing a headscarf during her
diplomatic visit and talking with Iranian government officials in Iran. Her
argument was, while Ms. Linde is a feminist who strives for equal rights for
women and men, she herself is forced to surrender to a country with the law of
compulsory hijab and to accept compulsory hijab at that time and place.

What comes to mind at first glance? Is Ms. Linde entering into negotiations
with government leaders in a contradictory move that openly violates women’s
freedom and equality? Is Ms. Linde just looking to develop Sweden’s political
interests and wear a feminist mask? Has Ms. Linde neglected the rights of
Iranian women? Is Ms. Linde really a feminist?

The answer to this question is beautifully given by Ms. Anne Linde, she can
choose to be a feminist woman and only care about the freedom of her dress and not enter into negotiations with the leaders of Iran for anything. At the same
time, she can be a feminist and choose to accept the forced hijab for a short time
in order to achieve a greater goal and help free some political prisoners. which
one is better? Getting a little of what we want or getting nothing?

The ability to solve a problem is one of the most basic life skills and is a sign of
having white literacy, and in order to be able to solve a problem, one must first
be able to identify priorities. What the Swedish Foreign Minister is aware of,
but many women’s rights activists in Iran and in other places are not paying
attention to. Thus, this inaccuracy causes them to focus only on the goal and the
result instead of focusing on the solutions to solve the problem, and try to
achieve the result in any way, unaware that the goal does not justify the device.
To achieve the goal, you must use the right way, and the right way is in the right

Watch the video here!

Fatemeh Shirazizadeh