Change of costume to perception of self

After changing to uniforms, the veterans almost immediately looked different — “with their raggedy haircuts hidden by field caps and berets, they were impossible to mess” (p.219) — or became (from a mass, a background) individuals, and the narrator explained this was because by wearing uniforms they restored their manhood. It is curious that a simple change of outfit made such a difference, and the change of outfit not only hid their poor status, but also gave, or rather let them regain their status as soldiers, as valuable people who could stand out from the ordinary. Being viewed as refugees and inferiors, they were not able to get jobs that could sustain their former socioeconomic status, and consequently fit only more into the refugee stereotype, and so poverty and doubts from the Americans, their families, and probably mostly themselves weighed them down. Now in this instance of the book, although the Americans who were the first to look down on them were not present, yet they gained their lost confidence as if the Americans were looking at them, astonished by their change. Maybe the switch of the costume was a switch of identity, so that as Vietnamese soldiers they no longer depended on the Americans’ view of them, and their inferiority compared to other Americans just ceased to exist because there was no comparison, or they would not need to do the comparison of them against American citizens.

1 Comment

  1. Your post makes me think that we should add clothing to the aspects of character list. Especially in the case of the soldiers in The Sympathizer, clothing, in this case their uniforms, represents an important aspect of both how they view themselves and how others view them. I think another interesting example would be the passage where the General and the Sympathizer are in Guam, and the women attack the General, ripping his uniform to shreds. It’s a symbolic gesture of his loss of identity.

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