The Bourne Identity | Study Guide

Robert Ludlum

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The Bourne Identity | Book 1, Chapter 5 | Summary



Jason Bourne deduces that the man in Marseilles who tried to stab him must have alerted his present attackers in Zurich and that Koenig, the bank's receptionist, must have deactivated the scanning equipment in the elevator. In the time it takes the elevator to descend a single floor, Jason Bourne rips the ear half off one of his attackers, grabs his gun, and demands to know how many others are waiting for him. There are two additional men, he learns, in a brown Peugeot.

One of these is a man with gold-rimmed glasses. The reader will never know his name, but he will appear repeatedly throughout the novel. Fleeing the bank, Bourne screams to a guard that the man in the glasses is "the one." However, when the police arrive, the man with the gold-rimmed glasses heads back into the bank with them. Bourne realizes two things. First: he has no idea why he ordered his funds transferred to the bank in Paris—he did it automatically. Second: now a number of would-be killers know he is alive and in Zurich.

Back at the Carillon du Lac Bourne packs his bag and writes a note (accompanied by a hefty tip) to Herr Stossel, the hotel manager, saying he will be away for a time but to please keep track of messages for him. As he's leaving he overhears other guests discussing an economics conference. One of them, a striking auburn-haired woman, is named Marie (Marie St. Jacques). The desk clerk calls this woman "Dr. St. Jacques" and hands her a cable from Ottawa. As Jason Bourne begins to leave the hotel, he notices the man with gold-rimmed glasses stepping out of the brown Peugeot. There are more thugs with him.

Bourne has a gun, but it is not enough protection against so many men. Desperate, he looks around the lobby. Approaching Marie St. Jacques, he asks about the presentation he'd heard her discussing with her companions, a boring lecture with slides. Will she show him where it is? As Bourne stalls, she grows annoyed and then alarmed. He grabs her arm, pokes a gun into her side, and explains she must help him get away, or he will kill her.

A chase ensues, with Bourne using Marie as a shield from the assassins pursuing them through the lecture hall. They have a shootout, but he makes it out, yanking Marie along a corridor as she sobs and begs him to let her go. He forces her to walk outside with him in a macabre pantomime of a happy couple. It is now dark, but the killers have not given up. Bourne's previous gunshot wounds have caused weak areas in his body, and the physical exertion of running from the attackers has irritated the wounds. In excruciating pain, he steals a car and forces Marie to drive him into Zurich.


This first meeting between Jason Bourne and Marie St. Jacques is important to both the book's plot and its themes of violence, identity, and love. Marie St. Jacques will become Jason Bourne's lover and his sole ally for most of the novel. She will also be, in many ways, his equal: a brilliant woman whose economic acumen and knowledge of international finance will prove extremely helpful. However, their relationship begins with violence. While Bourne takes no pleasure in hurting her, it is difficult to read the detailed descriptions of her pain. Bourne is still operating completely on instinct, like a machine or a well-trained assassin, leading him to mistreat Marie without thinking of the consequences for her.

According to current research, the old idea of a "fight or flight" response to threats is complicated. In fact, humans are more likely to freeze than fight or flee. There is an exception to this rule, however. Soldiers train to overcome the freeze instinct in order to engage in combat. Neither Jason Bourne nor Marie St. Jacques freezes in the charged scene with the would-be assassins. They're both fighters, though the reader eventually learns that only Bourne ultimately has trained for such an encounter. In fact, his "instincts" are the result of the most intense preparation. Bourne is the equivalent of a contemporary Navy SEAL or other Special Forces fighter. His "freeze" instinct no longer exists. However, such training is not without lasting impact itself. When soldiers train to disobey their basic instincts for self-protection, they are at higher risk for posttraumatic stress disorder. When Ludlum published The Bourne Identity in 1980, PTSD didn't yet exist as a diagnosis. Understanding Jason Bourne as a trauma victim and survivor becomes more important as the narrative continues and complicates.

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