The Bourne Identity | Study Guide

Robert Ludlum

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The Bourne Identity | Book 2, Chapter 22 | Summary

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Summary

The few surviving members of Treadstone Seventy-One meet at a hotel in Washington, D.C. Alexander Conklin of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Operation Medusa, General Crawford—full name and title: Brigadier General "Iron Ass" Crawford—a senator from Colorado, and a naval officer discuss "what in the name of God happened?" at the house in Manhattan.

The short version: When Major Gordon Webb never showed up for his flight out of New Jersey, his driver, a military sergeant, went back and investigated the house on 71st Street. He called the Pentagon and asked directly for General Crawford—earning himself a promotion in the process. They investigated the scene and discovered Delta's (a.k.a. Cain/Bourne's) prints on the broken glass. Evidently, Jason Bourne was not their collective first choice as the most covert operative in U.S. history. He was too unstable. Crawford and Conklin argue. It seems they have been sparring partners for years.

The senator from Colorado asks for more information. The president demands it. Finally, Bourne's backstory is revealed. He had a wife and children who were killed in the Mekong River by bombs and gunfire. Then Jason Bourne joined Operation Medusa and became a mad killer. Now, the men think, Bourne may see them as the enemy; he's snapped. Conklin wants him dead. Their Delta has become Cain. The order is given: "Kill him."

Analysis

How does a country decide not to trust itself? Is The Bourne Identity a symptom of paranoia or the disease itself? Americans have heard stories of covert operations and government cover-ups for so many years: Iran Contra, the Weapons of Mass Destruction, and even potential collusion with Russia. Perhaps this history has made citizens accustomed to hearing their government might kill its own, most devoted, operatives. In 1980, when Ludlum published The Bourne Identity, this idea was still shocking. The 70s—an era of paranoia and conspiracy theories—had just ended. By 1980 readers would have been ripe for a "truth" that confirmed their worst fears. Watergate was not yet a decade in history's rearview mirror. The aftermath of the Vietnam War hadn't yet been processed—the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Washington D.C.'s National Mall, widely considered the first time the United States officially dealt with the injustice and costs of that war, wasn't even completed until 1982.

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