(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“An Unsound Sleep” takes place in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. The main concern of the story is how people’s lives are changed by political censorship and war. The story traces the Phan family’s downfall after a daughter and her husband participate in Buddhist demonstrations. Nhât Tiên skillfully incorporates descriptions of the local lifestyle and historical facts in his fiction.

The story begins in early afternoon in what is typically a boisterous, poor part of town. Old Phan is watching beggars and finishing off some dry shrimp and alcohol. He gets up to leave for the marketplace, then spots a rather cheap eating place. Again drinking alcohol and eating dry shrimps, he hears someone yelling about a fire at Lo-Gom hamlet. After expressing surprise, he finishes up his food and drink and heads for a park. He hears news of revolution in his state of half-sobriety. Afterward Old Phan heads for home.

After a day’s work as a porter for numerous storehouses in the marketplace Cholon, Old Phan usually sits on his doorstep enjoying a drink and peanuts. However, since the Buddhist demonstration, his daughter has been coming home from her greengrocer job later and later. Old Phan is very annoyed by the fact that dinner has been left to grow cold lately because his daughter, Miss Phan, is always late. He grows very impatient with her increasing lack of punctuality, when she used to get home before 7:00 p.m.

When Miss Phan finally comes home,...

(The entire section is 617 words.)