The Quiet American

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“Innocence always calls mutely for protection when we would be so much wiser to guard ourselves against it: innocence is like a dumb leper who has lost his bell, wandering the world, meaning no harm.” (57) The Quiet American, by Graham Greene, is set in Vietnam during the French colonial wars. The story is told from the point of view of a British journalist stationed in Saigon, Thomas Fowler. Fowler is likely a reference to Greene, as Greene himself was a (British) journalist during the colonial wars in Saigon. The character to which the title refers, Alden Pyle, works for the American government; his exact job (manufacturing bombs for insurgency leader General The) is initially concealed. Innocence is the primary theme of the novel; that is, the destructive nature of it. In Pyle, innocence breeds a destructive idealism that culminates in his murder as an indirect result. Fowler and Pyle are juxtaposed as unlikely friends in the novel, serving to contrast innocence with disenchantment. When Fowler first meets Pyle he involuntarily likes him. He is quiet (unlike most of the Americans that Fowler comes into contact with), thoughtful, and naive. Pyle’s intentions in Vietnam are ernest: “He was determined – I learned very soon – to do good, not to any individual person, but to a country, a continent, a world.” (Greene 32) Pyle is obsessed with an author called York Harding, an American who writes about the virtues of democracy and especially about a “third force” in Vietnam. The third force would be a native army fighting for democracy. Later in the book it becomes obvious that though Pyle’s intentions are invariably good, he isn’t self aware and is consequentially destructive. At one point Fowler converses with Pyle: “I’ve been to India, Pyle, and I know the harm liberals do. We haven’t a liberal party anymore – liberalism’s infected all the other
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