The Bourne Identity | Study Guide

Robert Ludlum

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The Bourne Identity | Book 1, Chapter 9 | Summary



By the time he reaches the Limmat River, Jason Bourne is in terrible pain, but he pushes on, staunching the bleeding in his shoulder and protecting the wounds in his hand with a strip torn from his shirt. Then he hears a sound, "Low, throated ... delivered in fear." A thug is raping Marie St. Jacques, a "final indignity before ... the sentence of death." In fury, Bourne attacks, disregarding his own safety. There is a firefight, and a night watchman becomes an unwitting victim. Bourne vanquishes the killer but is almost past his own survival. He sinks to the ground.

Marie St. Jacques is not immobilized. Even in shock, practically naked, she approaches him. He tells her to go, to find a doctor, to run. She protests, "You came back for me, and saved ... my ... life." She begins to help him, binding his wounds. He loses consciousness.

When he wakes, Marie is standing over him with a doctor from Wohlen. She has taken Bourne to Lenzburg, a village about 20 miles outside of Zurich. The doctor fixes his wounds for a high fee.

Jason tells Marie he only saved her in the course of catching his attackers. As a statistician, trained to observe data, she disagrees, noting Jason chose, against odds of identification, to go back and rescue her. Faced with such empirical facts, she had to help him. She continues, saying that his behavior does not match with the description of a man wanted by the police as a monster. However intriguing these observations may be, she will leave for Canada at dawn. The room is paid for through the week.

Jason tells her everything he knows: his name and his history since waking in Port Noir. Marie is moved, explaining she would not have tried to escape from Jason if she'd known Chernak was a Nazi and tried to kill Bourne first. Now that she knows Jason is moral, she will stay to help him, for a little while at least.


The dominant issue of this chapter is rape and what is now called "rape culture." The changes from Ludlum's era are particularly significant around issues of women and physical violence. It begs the question of whether The Bourne Identity is supposed to appeal to a female reader. Action- and violence-packed thrillers are similar to ultimate action movies—and those are primarily written and created by men and for men. Marie St. Jacques's rape is fully in the context of what film critic Laura Mulvey famously coined as the "male gaze." When the reader sees Marie naked and attacked, her clothes torn from her body, the point of view is through Jason Bourne's eyes. Similarly, as she "recovers" with Bourne, her own sense of self, of sexuality and power, are seen through Bourne's perspective and the overseeing (and presumably male) third-person voice.

Since the book's publication in 1980, cultural ideas about rape and violence against women have changed significantly. Marie's actions don't exactly make sense from a feminist contemporary psychological perspective. She looks at Jason as a savior and treats him with tenderness and affection. However, if he hadn't kidnapped her—an act of violence—she wouldn't have been in that car by Zurich's Limmat River. Much of the coming narrative depends on Marie's falling in love with Bourne, and it feels to a modern reader like an example of Stockholm syndrome (when prisoners fall in love with their captors). Marie's character, for all of her intelligence, charm, and sense, is a period piece. The film version (The Bourne Identity, 2002) casts the strong and powerful German actress Franka Potente as Marie St. Jacques and makes her more of an equal to Bourne.

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