Study Guide

The Bourne Identity Chapter 1

By Robert Ludlum

Chapter 1

  • Here we are at the beginning of Book I.
  • A trawler bucks on a storm-tossed sea.
  • Shots ring out and a man emerges from the trawler pursued by some other guy with a gun.
  • The guy running away keeps getting shot and finally pitches over the railing into the sea.
  • We stick with the guy who's been shot as he struggles in the water. He's tempted to just give up and let himself sink, but he manages to grab hold of something or other and stay afloat.
  • And now we bounce back out of the water over to a small fishing boat that has survived the storm.
  • The skipper's brother sees someone holding on to a piece of wood in the water: it's our anonymous dude who got shot, obviously.
  • They pull him out of the water and are impressed by the bullet wound that has split his head open. Gross.
  • They decide to bring anonymous dude to Ile de Port Noir, a (fictional) French island in the Mediterranean, where there's a doctor.
  • One of the sailors worries that the doctor will be too drunk to be competent.
  • We bump up in time a few weeks, and find the doctor, Geoffrey Washburn, is not as drunk as he might be. Caring for anonymous dude has helped him sober up, apparently. It's given him hope that he might get back to his home in England, though we don't quite know why it's given him hope yet (suspense).
  • Anonymous dude wakes up…and it turns out he doesn't know his name. Which means we're going to have to keep referring to him as "anonymous dude" for a little while longer.
  • Washburn tells anonymous dude that getting his memory back is going to take a while—which we probably could have figured out given the big, fat wad of pages in our right hand.
  • Washburn and anonymous dude talk. It turns out anonymous dude spoke a bunch of languages in his sleep, including at least one Oriental one, though he's Caucasian.
  • Washburn also tells anonymous dude that he's had facial surgery, apparently to erase all distinguishing features and make him look... you guessed it: anonymous. Washburn tells him he's worn contacts, even though he doesn't need corrective lenses.
  • Anonymous dude suggests he might be some sort of international salesmen or a university teacher, but Washburn says no way, anonymous dude: you're too physically fit.
  • And also, anonymous dude, Washburn says, you had a microfilm negative showing information about a bank vault in Zurich surgically implanted in your hip. Seriously, folks, can you imagine waking up with amnesia only to find out this load of information?
  • Most people don't have microfilm with info about Zurich bank accounts implanted in their hips (aside from those of us at Shmoop, that is.) Therefore: anonymous dude is unusual and possibly dangerous—though we still don't know why yet.