© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
The Garden of Forking Paths

The Garden of Forking Paths


by Jorge Luis Borges


Character Role Analysis

Yu Tsun and Captain Madden

It might seem strange that the man charged with hunting Yu Tsun down and capturing him should also be his foil, but when you think about it, it makes sense. Captain Madden and Yu Tsun have a lot in common, and their similarities help us to better understand their motivations. Both are foreigners working as spies for governments to which they don't really owe any cultural allegiance, and their foreign status causes both men to be objects of suspicion. Just as Yu Tsun wants to succeed in his mission in order to "prove to [The Chief] that a yellow man could save his armies," Richard Madden jumps at the chance to prove his loyalty to the British by tracking down and arresting two German spies.

It's nothing personal – just another day in the life of a spy.

Stephen Albert and Ts'ui Pen

Dr. Stephen Albert lives alone, in a pavilion surrounded by an elaborate garden. He enjoys Chinese music, philosophy, and solitary scholarship. Sound familiar? Yeah, he's a lot like the guy whose work he studies – Ts'ui Pen, who secluded himself for thirteen years to pursue academic work. The similarities kinda start to make you nervous when you consider that Ts'ui Pen's literary career was cut short by a mysterious visit from an assassin. Could it be that Dr. Albert will meet the same fate? (Spoiler alert... he does!)