Voice(s) in The Sympathizer



The first person narrative in the Sympathizer makes the narrator’s voice our main point of entry into the story, and the various characters involved. The way the narration handles free direct speech points to his voice as the filter through which we have access to his world, as he constantly blurs the line between narration, indirect and direct speech. From the beginning of the novel, and on multiple occasions, the narrator addresses the Commandant directly, making him the preferred interlocutor to his narration – it might serve as a way to recall some past events, and have another characters rhetorically check the truth in the narrator’s words, but it is also a way for him to play with the proximity/distance structure of every one of his relationships: on page 32, he is trying to either breach the distance or increase it through irony by having the Commandant agree to his rather treacherous thoughts (“It is always better to admire the best among our foes than the worst among our friends. Wouldn’t you agree, Commandant?”). The unconventional handling of free speech serves a similar purpose, where the task of the reader figuring out whose voice he is reading is made slightly more difficult by the absence of any typographic marker of free speech. This is in my opinion a way for the narrator to show that he can “see any issue from both sides” (1), and the blending of voices is made by his understanding the various persona the other characters take on, as he identify with their plight: “Like him, I, too, was a man trapped by difficult circumstances”.  One instance where we do see direct speech markers is on page 76,where the narrator professes his love to Sofia – a moment where there must not be any sort of identification, where romantic entanglement on the narrator’s part must reject the blending of their voices.