How is symbolism used in The Sympathizer?

Symbolism is used in The Sympathizer to illustrate the narrator's feelings towards his late mother. The narrator serves as a technical consultant on a film, and the prop tombstone with his mother's name on it represents an attempt on the narrator's part to reconnect with her.

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In The Sympathizer, the unnamed narrator finds himself working as a creative consultant on a Hollywood Vietnam movie. In doing so, he hopes to be able to do justice to the Vietnam War and help to provide a realistic picture of the conflict. As it turns out, the film misrepresents the war, not least by using non-Vietnamese actors to play Vietnamese people. But at least the narrator can say that he got involved in the project out of the very best of intentions.

To some extent, the narrator's work on the film is cathartic, a way of exorcising the many ghosts of his tortured past. The narrator is tormented by the fact that he wasn't present when his mother died. Although he can't turn back the clock and change what happened, through the magic of cinema he can at least construct an alternative reality in which he can finally do justice to his mother.

This is done by way of a prop gravestone on which the narrator's name is written. The impressive-looking prop, which looks likes it's made of stately marble, symbolizes a desire on the narrator's part to reconnect with his mother. He couldn't be there when she died, but he can at least pay tribute to her memory through the artificial gravestone, upon which he places a photograph of his mother.

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