The Quiet American is a novel about anti-war movement written by Graham Greene. It was published first in 1955 in UK. The story in the novel is based on the experiences of the author, Greene, as a combat correspondent for Le Figaro and The Times in Indochina French from 1951 to 1952. The setting of the novel is in Vietnam, which was then a site of local insurgency rising against the colonial rule of France. The author of this novel braids together romantic and political tangle. The characters of this novel such as Fowler, Pyle, and Phuong serve as symbols of European, Asian, and American systems; however, they tremble and fell the pain as the rest of humanity does (Wallace 3-17).
This novel is more personal and rather deep as it questions all human beings of their expectations when living in a foreign place and what they would do with those expectations. The author clearly shows that idealism and innocence can claim several lives, just as fearful cynicism. On the other hand, the author reminds the reader that it is difficult to understand the world, because it is much bigger as compared to the ideas of human beings. Greene shows how a Vietnamese woman, Phuong, who is the central figure in the book, will forever remain far from the grasp of a foreigner. Furthermore, it brings every piece of English, Asian, and American to the similar puzzle (Wallace 23-47).
The Quiet American is unique in that it explains the past, presents light to several present places, and even foreshadows the future. The novel twists a friendship tale and a romance that is heartrending against a murder backdrop while unfolding a political parable that is scary. Through Pyle who is soft spoken and thoughtful, the author shows that neither colonialism nor communism can be the answer to the systems of government of foreign lands such as Vietnam. This novel offers an understanding to the reasons why America badly blundered in Vietnam. The novel thus sheds light on those who seek to understand how the US blundered badly in Afghanistan as well as Iraq (Greene 41-73).
The author reveals that when a problem gets misinterpreted and its complexity underestimated, the cost to solve it becomes massive. The leaders assume that innocent blood shed is not in their hands since the killing was done by contracted and paid soldiers who end up having personal culpability. When the policies of the United States go awry, they blame it on bad planning, bad luck, and bad tactics; however, their motives lie past reproach. This novel is a perfect way of creating awareness of the foibles and failings of a country knowing how they contribute to clarity of morality as well as assist to protect folly. Innocence usually creates a problem. The novel shows that good informed intentions and the belief that things can be set right and the world fixed only leads to the killing of more people (Wallace 37-54).
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The Quiet American has a story that is complex in that it deals with politics, war, and colonialism, moral, as well as love conflicts. The author uses characters that have several conflicts arising among them that also result to dramatic events that resolve their lives. For instance, Fowler is a representation of old colonialism. Even though he is neutral and objective, he later becomes changed when he gets emotionally involved. On the other hand, Pyle is a representation of America, as well as the country’s eagerness to replace other countries. Greene points out the naivety and idealistic nature of Pyle to an extent that he is not informed of the country and its culture, a perfect example of the United States attitude of ignorance and being uninterested to learn the culture of other nations. Just like Pyle, the United States believes in having democracy and in saving a nation, in this case Vietnam without taking into consideration or being concerned to the evil and cruel means that will be applied to attain the goal (Greene 7-36).
The novel’s title, The Quiet American suits Pyle because of the truth that the role that he plays in the war between Vietnamese and the French is quiet. However, his democratic ideas and wish to compel his thoughts by all means on the people of Vietnam is not silent. The manner in which the United States enforces definite ideas on other foreign cultures and nations is everything but quiet. On the other hand, Phuong is a representation of Vietnam that is ruled by colonial France. Phuong fears being betrayed and misused by foreigners and France, the way other girls have been. The author shows how Phuong and Vietnamese women are perceived as beautiful, exotic, innocent and mystical by colonial powers such as the British, the French, as well as the Americans (Wallace 67-74).
This novel brings out theimpression of otherness. For instance, the people of Vietnam, as well as their culture can be perceived as something unknown and different to the Americans and other colonial powers. The author clearly shows this through the manner in which Pyle and Fowler treat Phuong. Just like Pyle and Fowler, the United States perceives other nations as innocent exotic and even invisible. The United States does not make an attempt to strive and the world from the perspective of other nations. The manner in which Pyle handles Phuong is an excellent comparison to the manner in which the United States acted to Indo China and Vietnam. The killing of Pyle is an example of the consequences of politics. Even though quiet and acts with intentions that are best, America can be perceived to be a threat due to arrogance and lack of empathy and understanding due to the consequences of its actions (Greene 47-69).
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This book is an excellent source of literature. This novel clearly portrays ambiguity and nuance that exist between different countries. Also, the book is a critical imperialism presentation and the policy of the United States in other countries.