Sympathizer (Nguyen) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
We'll include publisher questions if they're made available. In the meantime, use these LitLovers talking points to kick start a discussion for The Sympathizer:

1. What does the narrator mean when he tells us, "I am a man of two minds"? How does this statement reverberate throughout the book?

2. Comparisons of this work have been made to Joseph Heller's Catch-22, an absurdist take on World War II. Nguyen includes similar satire in The Sympathizer. One such example is this statement::

It was a smashingly successful cease-fire, for in the last two years only 150,000 soldiers had died. Imagine how many would have died without a truce!

Can you find other examples where the author employs similar satiric wit? What affect does such a stylistic device have on your reading? Does the black humor lessen the horror of the war, or draw more attention to it?

3. Talk about the conclusion of the book, which many describe as shattering. Was it so for you? How has the narrator been changed by his experiences? What has he come to learn about himself, his culpability, his identify, the war, America and Vietnam?

4. The narrator says that the war in Vietnam "was the first war where the losers would write history instead of the victors." What does he mean by that? What do you know (or remember) about the war—and how did you come to know it? How does point of view, who does the telling, alter one's understanding of history?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution Thanks.)

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