The Bourne Identity | Study Guide

Robert Ludlum

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The Bourne Identity | Book 1, Chapter 4 | Summary



The flight to Zurich is crowded and bumpy. Dr. Geoffrey Washburn instructed Jean-Pierre (Jason Bourne, who has amnesia) to project himself into moments of stress by free-associating words and images that come to mind. The doctor hoped this technique would help his patient recall his own natural reactions and instincts. On the plane, Jean-Pierre projects into his reactions to the turbulence. He visualizes himself as paratrooper about to jump out of a plane. However, the memory does not connect to anything else. Then in the cab from the airport, he automatically instructs the driver to take him to Carillon du Lac. It is a hotel, and he knows his way around the lobby. The clerk even recognizes him, saying warmly, "It's been quite a while since your last visit."

Jean-Pierre asks the clerk, Herr Stossel, to fill out the registration card for him because he has a sprained wrist. The clerk writes "Mr. J. Bourne, New York, N.Y. U.S.A." on the card. He has a name, even if he doesn't know what the "J." stands for, or anything about his home. However, he signs the registry with an accurate signature. In addition it seems there is a protocol in place for J. Bourne's stays at the Carillon du Lac. Stossel explains his usual practice: he will tell all callers Bourne is "out"—with the exception of his "firm," The Treadstone Seventy-One Corporation. (Apparently, J. Bourne is also a generous tipper.) From his room, Bourne, as the narrator calls him from this point onward, attempts to trace the company through the New York City operator. No such business exists.

Heading out into the bright sunshine, Bourne hopes his visit to the Gemeinschaft Bank will resolve some of his mystery. Upon arrival Bourne is directed upstairs to a sequestered department and then ushered into a locked room.

Before long Walther Apfel, a bank officer, enters and explains that Bourne "startled" Herr Koenig, the receptionist. Usually, the holder of a "three-zero account" would have made an appointment. Bourne is asked to sign his name again, several times, for extra verification; he passes. In the meantime Bourne and Apfel chat about security. The bank and its private rooms are completely monitored.

Finally, Bourne's black metal safe deposit box arrives. Bourne is shocked upon opening it and seeing paperwork stating the account holds 7.5 million francs—or over 5 million American dollars. The account statements detail two years' worth of deposits, starting with a massive transfer from a bank in Singapore. There is also a sealed envelope with a message on the front indicating it is only to be opened by the account holder. It reads: "Owner: Jason Charles Bourne. Address: Unlisted. Citizenship: U.S.A."

Reading his first name doesn't restore his memory, but it makes sense. Bourne tells Apfel he will need help transferring a "great deal" of his money and then immediately sends 1.5 million Swiss francs to Washburn's account (they had arranged he would give his savior a portion of whatever money he found). Next, he transfers 4.5 million francs to a bank in Paris. He also withdraws cash. The proceedings have been smooth, with a small exception. The original receptionist, Koenig, interrupts Bourne and Apfel to bring them "une fiche," a small black-bordered envelope holding a regulation or order. Bourne doesn't know what the fiche is, nor is he allowed to look at its contents.

Then the situation gets very strange indeed. When Bourne leaves Apfel's office, two men follow him into the elevator. One speaks into a small radio; the other takes out a .38 caliber pistol with a silencer.


This chapter ends with the sentence, "The madness began," an indication that the game is on. This is combat, and Jason Bourne is a soldier on a solo patrol. Readers not yet prepared for rapid-fire pacing know at this point they are in for an adrenaline-inducing narrative.

This chapter also provides many indications that Bourne will succeed. Operating on a combination of luck and instinct, he knows what to do with the information he receives. The reader may deduce Bourne is a trained fighter, highly skilled in dealing with new and unexpected situations, and unintimidated by huge sums of money. Five million dollars in 1975 is over 22 million in 21st-century value. It's an astounding amount of money to come into so quickly, yet he manages to keep calm and betray no surprise. The money is also a signal, even before the men with guns appear on the scene, that he is in danger. Someone must care about that money, which has been lying dormant as Bourne recovered over the last five months.

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