"The Quiet American" by Graham Greene: "In order to understand events clearly we must observe them at close range." How far does the novel show this to be true?

Essay by happyfarmer23High School, 12th gradeA-, May 2007

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The novel, “The Quiet American”, demonstrates that in order to understand events clearly, something more than just observation at “close range” is required. It shows that interpretation, wisdom and experience must be present to allow a clear view of such events as those occurring within the novel. This is shown in a comparison between Fowler and Pyle and how they react to various situations. The novel also demonstrates that how a view from far away may not necessarily be such a prominent one.

Fowler, as the protagonist in "The Quiet American", originally considers himself detached from the events around him, a reporter, an observer. However, confronted with the consequences of war, Fowler, he feels, is forced to become involved in these events. The concealed human nature emerges as he finds himself in the canal, witnessing the violence from the plane with Capitan Trouin. Fowler’s wisdom and experience enable him to view things at face value and not idolise about how they may be shown in a book (or how Pyle sees them).

His first hand view of the war enables him to understand the obscenity and futility of it. Furthermore, his desire to opinionate about the war is demonstrated in the tower scene in his conversation with Pyle, followed by his abandonment of disengagement after learning Pyle's true identity and purpose. Fowler's objectivity is invaded during his journey in Phat Nam. He is determined to justify his own character, this is demonstrated when he declines the offer of a helmet from a soldier saying "no, no, that is for combatants." Metaphorically, Fowler is stating to himself that he is still detached from the situation around him.

Pyle, because of his text-book view of the Vietnam, does not see the events occurring around him clearly. He believes...