I was quite struck by the scene inĀ The Sympathizer where the narrator meets with the Auteur, criticizing him for his portrayal of the screaming Vietnamese characters in his script. The narrator asks “would you like to hear how they scream?” and when the Auteur nods, he stands up, says “here’s what it sounds like,” but instead of physically screaming simply writes down an onomatopoeic representation of a scream (p 131). The scene sets up an expectation of an actual scream, and the Auteur seems nervous about this possibility (he is described as swallowing, Adam’s apple is bobbing). In considering what to make of this scene, where the narrator bravely stands up to the Auteur but finds himself unable to do so with the physical force of a raised voice, I was reminded of the list that the narrator makes earlier of his “oriental” and “occidental” qualities. The “oriental” category is full of descriptors such as “respectful of authority,” “worried about others’ opinions,” “usually quiet,” “always trying to please,” and “self-sacrificial.” As a half-French and half-Vietnamese immigrant, and as a double agent and political prisoner, the narrator is forced to navigate aggression and palatability in interesting ways. He is constantly performing, both conforming to and subverting other’s opinions of him, and given the style of the novel as a confession written to a specific interlocutor with control over the narrator’s fate, this calculus of the opinion of others seems inescapable.