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Abusive Corruption of American Power in “Quiet American” by Graham Greene

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    The Quiet American: Choose a novel which explores in an effective way a theme which is important to you. A novel of which explores a certain theme, the abusive corruption of American power is Graham Greene’s “The Quiet American”. Greene’s novel is set in the French colony, Vietnam, which is soon to be lost to the Communists. His narration and description of characters such as Alden Pyle the titular “Quiet American” of whom is proud to be American and is working for the Economic Aid Mission of which is known as the “third force”.

    The other is Thomas Fowler, who is actually narration the whole story and gives a clear inclination that he strongly dislikes the idea of Americans entering a country of which is not theirs and taking over it. Both characters are completely different in the way they believe Vietnam should be run. Fowler , a veteran reporter who cannot show an opinion to what the Americans are doing to the culture of Vietnam however shows what he really believes later on in the text.

    Fowler being British; is effectively the representative of Europe where as Pyle is obviously the representative of America having two different views on what America is doing to Vietnam. Greene uses first person narration and flashbacks to emphasise how he feels over what he did to Pyle however uses cynical language to make it clear that he is not really sorry for his Fowlers actions. There are certain parts to the novel where it shows that Fowler is more than a veteran but experienced in both living in Vietnam but conflict as well.

    Also it shows the contrast between Pyle and Fowler, for example Fowler and Pyle are walking in the city where a bang goes off; Fowler automatically knows that it was a “Grenade” however Pyle naively thinks that it was “A car backfiring. Throughout the novel the tension between Fowler and Pyle increases showing the political conflict between America, France and Vietnam. An example of the tension is when Pyle tries to take Phuong off of Fowler as it shows Fowler and Vietnam being the link of Europe’s exploitation of Indochina.

    Both Fowler and Vietnam are linked by the fact that they are unsure of their future in the sense that Fower’s wife is refusing to have a divorce as it is against her religion being Roman Catholic. Fowler claims that it would be “the end of life to lose this girl” as well as it would be the end of French colonialist Vietnam to lose France as their leader. Fowler is constantly reminded that he like the Americans are part of a different culture and would be impossible to try living like he Vietnamese and will never know really what is best for them as they can only view from a Western point of view. Pyle also becomes a typical Capitalist American by believing that he is right for instance believing that he is best for Phuong, Fowler’s girlfriend, and would “protect” her; meaning protect her from Communism just like America is trying to stop the Domino theory from continuing. Not only this but Pyle would give her “security and respect” similar to the idea of stopping the Domino theory of which is what America wants to do to Vietnam as long as it does not become Communist.

    Although the rivalry between the two is clear, it is actually somewhat humorous as shown in the scene where Pyle asks Fowler to propose to Phuong for him as he does not speak French. This lightens the tone at the time as it is also the same idea with the Americans wanting to take over Vietnam by using a weaker country, France, to get there. However there are examples of the rivalry between Pyle and Fowler increasing at the same time as when the war between Communism and Capitalism increases too.

    However the most important scene of which demonstrates how badly America misuses its power is in the Terrorist bomb scene. In this scene Fowler begins to understand and realise who and what Pyle really is for example whenever there is a conflict like the bombing Pyle seems to be there. Also when the attack happens Greene describes it so clearly that it is somewhat gruesome to contemplate. This is because Greene wants to make it clear what he believes America’s involvement in Vietnam is doing in this case more harm than good.

    Examples of the gruesome images that Greene uses are describing the injured as “twitched” and “the legless torso”. The whole idea of the novel is about uncovering and revealing the truth and in the novel the first truth revealed is Pyle realising that Fowler lied about getting a divorce. This idea also has connotations that America is too intrusive. Another factor is when Fowler realises that Pyle is helping import plastic explosives into Vietnam to help fight against the Communists.

    The actual visit to the warehouse where the explosives are is sinister and disturbing as Greene makes it seem as though it is a conspiracy using phrases such “huddle of sampans”. This scene is where Fowler realises that America is abusing their power as a country. Another example of Greene using the text to show what he believes about America’s involvement in Vietnam is when Fowler and Pyle begin to argue about the “Third Force”. Fowler claims that “You’ve put General The on the map”.

    The tone of which is used by Fowler indicates that he has “taken sides” and will therefore question Americas involvement and America’s use of power in Vietnam. In conclusion Graham Greene’s novel “The Quiet American” has many different examples where he uses characters such as Pyle, the American Economic Aid worker, to show America’s abusive use of their power. The rivalry between Pyle and Fowler shows the clear dislike of the fact that America is not thought of as a help to Vietnam and their involvement in Vietnam is frowned upon by other western countries in around Europe.

    The rivalry between the two to get the Vietnamese girl Phuong has also connotations of America invading other peoples’ business and other “countries” effectively. There is also the incident of the bomb where it shows the price people have to pay, not just physical but mental as well, when America enters other countries without considering their actions. Although being destructive and coercive America is still and will always be “Quiet” colonialists.

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    Abusive Corruption of American Power in “Quiet American” by Graham Greene. (2017, Jan 28). Retrieved from

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