I was struck by the similarity of the Sympathizer’s experience of almost dying from an explosion with the experience of the Invisible Man at the paint factory. Both suffer damage to their heads and are overtaken by blindness. Both wake-up in a strange hospital, and both loose some part of their minds/memories. In the interview with Nguyen at the back of The Sympathizer, Nguyen says that he was heavily influenced by Ellison’s Invisible Man, but that there were certain points in which he disagreed with him. So, I’m primarily interested in the differences between the Sympathizer’s experience and that of the Invisible Man in the explosion/hospital scenarios. The Sympathizer has a feeling that some procedure has been done on him, yet he has no memory of it. In comparison, we see the operation on the Invisible Man, but we see it through his limited (and therefore confused) point of view. Both receive compensation, but the Sympathizer feels himself to be in such a position to haggle for more, while the Invisible Man does not.
What is the difference in power and position between the Sympathizer and the Invisible Man in these equivalent experiences? What constitutes the Sympathizer’s power as Vietnamese man working on an American movie set in a Filipino hospital? How does he both have and not have power as a “semi-westerner” to the Filipinos yet also a foreigner to the Americans? How does this compare to the Invisible Man’s lack of power as a southern African-American man at a factory hospital staffed by all-White doctors in New York?