The Bourne Identity | Study Guide

Robert Ludlum

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The Bourne Identity | Plot Summary

See Plot Diagram


Book 1

A man falls off a fishing trawler into the Mediterranean Sea. Severely injured, he survives with the help of a sympathetic, yet alcoholic doctor. Once the man recovers from his physical wounds, he and the doctor realize the man has complete amnesia. However, he also has a photographic negative embedded in his hip, containing the number and access information for a Swiss bank account. Once the man is able to travel, he goes to Zurich where he learns his name is Jason Bourne, accesses the account, and discovers he is a multimillionaire. Leaving the bank, several men attack Bourne and try to kill him. After they pursue him to his hotel, Bourne uses a woman, Marie St. Jacques, as a shield and getaway car driver. Marie, a Canadian economist, is terrified but accedes to his demands. At the first opportunity, she escapes from Bourne, believing his pursuers are the police. They are not. In fact, a thug tries to rape her and intends to kill her afterward. Bourne rescues her, incurring severe injuries, and she nurses him back to health.

Book 2

Marie St. Jacques and Jason Bourne decide to pursue the secret of Bourne's identity together. They have received clues from various characters in Zurich and leave together for Paris. By this time, they have become lovers.

In Paris Jason and Marie set an intricate trap, enticing his pursuers to show themselves when they think he is at a French bank. They also discover the name of his enemy. It is Carlos, the so-called "assassin of Europe." Carlos is a terrorist, and the killer has put Bourne in his crosshairs.

Meanwhile in the United States, various military, governmental, and investigative officials are looking for Jason Bourne. However, they know him as "Cain," a former covert fighter for Operation Medusa, a special and secret Vietnam War task force. It turns out they were the ones who created the character of Cain to entrap Carlos. However, there is much infighting and double-crossing between the various branches of service. David Abbott, "the Monk," is a CIA veteran who taught Bourne and has been managing his operation as Cain. However, a traitor working for Carlos kills the Monk and many other Americans at Treadstone Seventy-One, the headquarters of the Cain operation. Because of forged evidence, the Americans believe Bourne is the killer.

Book 3

In Paris Marie St. Jacques and Jason Bourne come closer to the truth. Through a combination of detective work and espionage, they track Carlos's network to Les Classiques, an haute couture fashion house. Jason infiltrates Les Classiques, and Marie attempts to gain the help of the Canadian embassy in Paris. They track Carlos's network further to a house in Paris's Parc Monceau district. This is the home of André François Villiers, a powerful French general and right-wing politician. His son died in a terrorist attack several years earlier. The murderer was Carlos. General Villiers's young second wife is his most trusted confidante. However, Angélique Villiers turns out to be Carlos's lover. André François Villiers kills her in a rage, but not before she confesses her betrayal.

Bourne, who has been experiencing flashbacks to his Operation Medusa days, decides he must go to New York and confront his demons and pursuers there. When he arrives at the former site of Treadstone Seventy-One, Carlos is waiting for him. Marie St. Jacques also travels to New York, meeting with a U.S. official who will be able to help her rescue Jason from his own suicide mission.

Jason Bourne and Carlos fight, almost to the death. Carlos escapes, and Jason, again gravely injured, receives the care and rehabilitation he needs. By the end of the novel, Bourne learns his birth name is David Webb, and he and Marie, who are in love, meet again.

The Bourne Identity Plot Diagram

123456789101112131415ClimaxResolutionIntroductionRising ActionFalling Action


1 Jason Bourne recuperates in Port Noir with a doctor's help.

Rising Action

2 Bourne travels from Port Noir to Zurich.

3 Thugs chase Bourne in Zurich, Switzerland.

4 Bourne kidnaps Marie St. Jacques.

5 The affair between Bourne and Marie begins.

6 Bourne and Marie go to Paris.

7 U.S. officials discover Bourne has gone rogue.

8 Bourne realizes Carlos is pursuing him.

9 The agents at Treadstone Seventy-One are murdered.

10 Bourne thinks he must be Cain.


11 After visiting Les Classiques, Bourne finds Carlos's allies.

Falling Action

12 Bourne and Marie make contact with André François Villiers.

13 Villiers reveals his wife is Carlos's accomplice.

14 At Treadstone Seventy-One, Bourne and Carlos fight.


15 Bourne recovers and reunites with Marie.

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