A Man of Two Minds': Hybridity as Complicity and Resistance in Viet Thanh Nguyen's The Sympathizer

While the Vietnam War has been extensively chronicled, the majority of the material produced has privileged the American experience with little attention paid to the enormous costs suffered by the Vietnamese people. In his novel The Sympathizer, Viet Thanh Nguyen fills this void in his complex portrayal of the nameless main character - referred to as simply the narrator. The narrator is the illegitimate son of a Vietnamese mother and a French Catholic priest, who has been educated in the U.S., and acts as a mole for the communists in the South Vietnamese secret police. In my article, “‘A Man of Two Minds’: Hybridity as Complicity and Resistance in Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer,” I argue that the hybrid nature of the narrator’s identity becomes a source of both complicity and disruption to structures of power and domination in his journey into political consciousness. Ultimately, it is the narrator’s confession that utilizes a hybridity of language and literary form to create an alternative space of meaning and representation. In the writing of his confession, the narrator engages in an act of political resistance by providing what Nguyen refers to as a “just memory” to the war and the Vietnamese people, giving voice to those whose narratives have been previously silenced. To illustrate my argument, I employ research from works on hybridity and mimicry by postcolonial theorists such as Homi Bhabha as well as scholarly writings in the area of memory studies by Cathy Schlund-Vials, Yên Lê Espiritu, and Viet Thanh Nguyen.