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The Garden of Forking Paths

The Garden of Forking Paths


by Jorge Luis Borges

Yu Tsun

Character Analysis

Our protagonist is bitter and conflicted. A descendent of a wealthy and powerful Chinese family, he used to teach English in China. Now, however, he finds himself working for the Germans as a spy – a job that he finds degrading. He hates the Germans and thinks they're "barbarous" (8). On the other hand, he has known a British man who seemed to him the very picture of modesty, graciousness, and wisdom. (That would be Stephen Albert.) So he spies for the nation he thinks of as barbarous and shoots his British friend in the back. You can understand why Yu Tsun might be full of self-loathing.

Why on earth does Yu Tsun act this way? What is the force that drives him to aid his enemies and betray his friends? Well, it all hinges on the fact that his German boss, The Chief, is really xenophobic – he fears and hates foreigners, Tsun tells us, especially Asians. Yu Tsun wants to prove to The Chief that a Chinese man can "save his armies" by discovering and passing along secret British information (9). Tsun succeeds but doesn't have much to show for it: condemned to hang, he winds up full of remorse. Bummer. We can only hope that in some alternate reality, Yu Tsun has made better choices.