Ray
Ray asked:

This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)

To answer questions about The Sympathizer, please sign up.
Joe Kraus
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Heather
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Jim Gialamas
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Patrick Moore No spoiler in my answer.

All these answers are true and correct. In addition to the very thoughtful answers already given I add another perspective.

The question is "Why the Author Had To" give us the very uncomfortable ending he gave us. I wondered this myself. I was uncomfortable and wished he could have written it in a way that did not make me so uncomfortable.

All the answers given so far tell why the STORY "had to" tell us this, so the story would make as much sense as possible given the time and place and the philosophy in place there and then.

But none of the answers so far attempt the question of why the AUTHOR "had to" tell us these things. I'd like to attempt that question.

I see the author as wanting to provide a service to humanity through his writing, including informing us about the world as it currently is. I would guess the reasons for the Author writing this book at this time, yes, include giving a history lesson about things that happened in the 1970s, and (I am guessing) also to enlighten people about our current world situations. If my guess has any accuracy, then he'd "have to" make us feel discomfort in a way we felt. Personal discomfort. We have grown throughout the novel to identify with the main character to some degree and when he is made uncomfortable, when he is made to examine himself, we also must examine ourselves. It does not feel good to do this. I think the author "had to" make us feel icky in order to help us "see" the degree of similar issues going on today. I could be wrong, just a guess.

He could have left it more like a Vonnegut novel, with the ironic humor. That would have been one kind of novel that would have worked. But in Vonnegut's novels we do not feel personally affronted, perhaps motivated to act and see the world differently. After a Vonnegut novel you just shake your head and chuckle darkly. I love Vonnegut! I would have ENJOYED the Sympathizer more, had it kept the lovely humor and left out the discomfort. But I see the value I think the author intended by including the discomfort.
Robert Blumenthal
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Nicole The struggle I had with the end of the book was how strikingly similar it was to the end of George Orwell's 1984 in that the new regime believed that everyone must be broken down and reborn, including admitting to things they don't want to admit, before they can be released. Perhaps this is accurate, but it made it very predictable.
Image for The Sympathizer
by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Goodreads Author)
Rate this book
Clear rating

About Goodreads Q&A

Ask and answer questions about books!

You can pose questions to the Goodreads community with Reader Q&A, or ask your favorite author a question with Ask the Author.

See Featured Authors Answering Questions

Learn more