Study Guide

The Chief in The Garden of Forking Paths

By Jorge Luis Borges

The Chief

Yu Tsun's boss is like a cross between Darth Vader – the figurehead of an evil empire – and Inspector Gadget's arch-nemesis, Dr. Claw – constantly hidden from view (except for that one arm that he uses to stroke his evil, evil cat). Well, there's no evil cat in this story, but we can easily imagine The Chief visible only as a set of arms extending from behind a high-back chair. In this case, instead of petting a cat, these arms are paging through a stack of global newspapers, as the Berlin-based boss searches for news of his legion of spies.

A "sick and hateful man" that Yu Tsun resents for being the embodiment of that "barbarous country" that degraded him by making him a spy, The Chief nevertheless serves as the driving force for our protagonist (5, 8). For some deep-seated psychological reason that probably merits a few years of therapy, Yu Tsun feels the need to prove to The Chief that people of his race – that is to say, Chinese – are worth something to the Western world. But when Yu Tsun courageously succeeds in his mission – at the expense of his moral code, his colleague's life, and his own – is The Chief grateful or even impressed? We seriously doubt it. Working for The Chief is like working for The Man. You kill yourself, and for what? Nothing, that's what.