Paved in Innocence: The Quiet American

Essay by FabrebondHigh School, 12th gradeA+, March 2004

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Of all the conflicts that the United States engaged in during the late 20th century, none invoked the ire of its citizens more than Vietnam. Even now it is somewhat of a taboo, something that if spoken about wrongly, could incur the wrath of those around you. Yet Graham Greene's novel The Quiet American is centered around just that, as well as early U.S. involvement during the prologue to American troops being sent into the Vietnam. The novel primarily focuses around two characters: Thomas Fowler, a seasoned and cynical British war reporter and Alden Pyle, a seemingly naive American Aide Officer. Although Pyle of Graham Greene's The Quiet American has the best of motives and is blissfully innocent while carrying out U.S. policies in Vietnam, he brings about destruction and corruption. First Pyle becomes involved in a complex lover's triangle, between him, Fowler, and Fowler's Vietnamese lover Phuong. After much strife, some strangeness is created between Fowler and Pyle it becomes clear that their relationship is becoming unstable.

Finally it becomes clear that Pyle is also entangled with U.S. policies around the encroaching war.

The relationship between Pyle, Fowler and Phuong at the start of the novel is somewhat subdued. Although Pyle seems to be attracted to Phuong, she at first takes no action, especially when he first meets her, and asks her to dance, as Fowler observes: "... later I saw them dancing in silence at the other end of the room, Pyle holding her so far away from him that you expected him at any moment to sever contact." (The Quiet American, 41) Although Pyle did ask Phuong to dance, it is apparent that he is very uncertain about women, as Fowler points out to Phuong's sister as Pyle is dancing with Phuong: "'I should...