Tuyet’s Conversion

Toward the beginning of Last of the Annamese, the reader learns that Tuyet is in a marriage of convenience, a marriage in name only. She has not shared a bed with her husband, South Vietnamese Marine Colonel Thanh, since the birth of their son, Thu, six years before. Tuyet both scorns and is in awe of Thanh. She married him at the command of her family which needed a connection to a rising star in the South Vietnamese military. Because she is Catholic and a member of the royal family, divorce is out of the question.

But as the fall of Saigon comes closer, Tuyet sees Thanh in a new light. While they are in the street, a VC assassin shoots Thanh, wounding him in the arm.  When a grenade is tossed into a crowd, Thanh throws himself on it to protect others, knowing it will kill him. It turns out to be a dud and Thanh survives. Tuyet is stunned to see that Thanh was willing to sacrifice himself to save others and sees that everyone around Thanh reveres him.

When they get home, Thanh asks Tuyet why she didn’t run away during the attack. Tuyet says she was afraid for him. Thanh tells her he is glad she is with Chuck Griffin now—he will get her and Thu out of the country safely. So Thanh knows that she and Chuck are lovers. The following passage describes Tuyet’s reaction to the conversation:

As the door clicked closed behind Thanh, Tuyet fluttered, out of control. He knew [about Chuck]. He saw in a way that was more than seeing. She was defenseless against him. He could watch her soul.

She crumpled onto the bed. She’d lied to herself—and to him. She hadn’t stayed by his side because she was afraid for him. She’d wanted to be with him, to keep him in her sight. She’d been blind but now was only starting to see. He lived at a level far beyond her understanding. That was why he could see what others could not. That was why the generals feared him and the common people loved him. And that, now that she could see it, was the beacon that drew her: This man was transcendence. If Thanh was to die, she had, in that moment in the street, wanted to die with him.

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