The Quiet American, The book by Graham Greene


The Quiet American, The book by Graham Greene

Historical Context- The book by Graham Greene has focused on the Indochina War where political upheavals were taking place. The war took place between the years 1946 up to 1954. Westerners refer to this war as the First Indochina War and the Vietnamese refer to it as the Anti-French War. The characters in the novel were used as representatives of the existing political and national factions.

The Americans were involved in the war, which was between the Vietminh, Communists and the French. At first, the Americans wanted to provide aid, but they found themselves engaging in other activities that were not part of their initial plans. The Domino Theory can explain why the Americans wanted to make their presence felt in the Indochina war. If the French were to succeed in taking over Vietnam, they would even decide to even conquer the other neighboring Asian countries.

At the time, Ho Chi Minh was one of the Vietnamese leaders who wanted to gain power and lead his people. The French withdrew their forces from Vietnam after they were defeated at Dien Bien Phu. Also, the Geneva Accord ensured that the French would no longer colonize the Vietnamese people. Furthermore, the Geneva Accord ensured that a 17th Parallel existed and it would ensure that Vietnam would be divided into South and North Vietnam. Elections were even held in South Vietnam and Ngo Dinh Diem won, and unfortunately, he was a ruthless leader who massacred many of his people. Luckily, in the year 1963, he was killed after a coup that was supported by the Americans.

It should be known that Chinese tactics were used by Ho Chi Minh and Giap in order to win the war. Therefore, the Vietnamese resorted to withdraw and head to the mountains, jungles, and countryside so as to avoid battles that were decisive. On the other hand, the French resorted to using air supply lines and support, and artilley during the war. However, because of the support the Americans offered the Vietnamese, the latter was able to win the war. Greene wanted the world to know about what was going on in the war because he had the first-hand experience. Also, he had a close friend who gave him much of the needed information needed in writing the book ‘The Quiet American’. Indeed, the Indochina war will forever be remembered because an author such as Greene ensured that he would write about it.


Pyle-The ‘quiet American’ in the book is Pyle because he is from the United States and works for the CIA. This means that because of the nature of his job, he is meant to go unnoticed so as to spy for his country on what is taking place in Vietnam. He came to Vietnam during the beginning of the 1950s as part of his country’s medical assistance team. Pyle is a character who will do anything for his country even if he knew that his life would be in danger since he was going to a country experiencing war.

His main aim of being in Vietnam is to work as an undercover CIA agent. His other mission was to ensure that a certain splinter group in Vietnam was armed so that it could win the war and thus promote American interests. Pyle is truly a patriotic and loyal American who will do anything for his national interests. Pyle is described as being all American as his parents have both made outstanding contributions to American society. Furthermore, Pyle wants to be like his parents and even contribute to the success of his country.

It is not surprising that he wanted to become a member of the American ‘Third Force’. The French and the Americans have different cultures and the issue of doing what is right is quite different. For example, Fowler did not believe that the Third Force caused political obstructions. On the other hand, Pyle was a firm believer in the Third Force and the reason why he wanted to join it. People need to be fully aware of other people’s cultures so that they do not perceive and interpret things in the wrong manner. It is no wonder that Fowler was not able to understand the true nature and character of Pyle and thus the reason for thinking that he was naïve.


Phuong-Phuong was a beautiful and young Vietnamese woman who was also Fowler’s lover. She is often referred to as a symbol of Vietnam as she often struggles to find protection and security. This is similar to all other people in Vietnam who wanted to form relations with the colonizers so that they could not suffer. Phuong took advantage of the fact that she was a beautiful woman in order to attract Fowler and Pyle and later, benefit from them.  She did not even mind the fact that in her society having two lovers is not condoned, but still went ahead with her relationship with the two men. According to her, the man who would provide the most benefit is the one that she would owe her loyalty to.

Phuong’s character has not been fully developed as compared to other characters because you cannot really tell what she wants to do as most times and she does not display her emotions. Furthermore, her sister is the one who controls Phuong in every aspect of her life. She even goes to the extent of choosing for her a marriage partner who can be of benefit to both of them. Phuong’s sister does not want her to have a relationship with Fowler because he is an atheist and even has a wife back home. She prefers Phoung to be in a relationship with Pyle because he is unattached and has better future prospects.

These are the reasons why Phuong’s character is not quite developed because she is acting as a link to other key characters in the quiet American. Lastly, Fowler and Pyle are different in their attitudes and actions toward Phuong. Fowler views her as a sexual object and takes her for granted, while according to Pyle; she is a delicate flower that has to be protected. This shows that most times men will have an interest in a woman based upon how they view her. In this case, Plyler genuinely loved Phoung and had her best interests at heart, while Fowler only wanted a woman who would cater to his sexual needs for some time.

  1. Fowler-Thomas Fowler was a journalist from Britain who was in his fifties. He had gone to Vietnam to cover the ongoings of the French war that was taking place in Vietnam for almost two years. Fowler is well informed about what is taking place in Vietnam because the British wanted to offer their support to the French who are their friends and neighbors. This proves that he is a representation of the Anglo-European colonialism as he wanted his countrymen to know what is taking place in Vietnam. It is evident that Fowler is a cynical and jaded man because of how he seems to behave in various situations.

Fowler believes that Americans are the enemies and do not want any associations with them and this motivates him to get rid of any American that comes his way. In this case, Fowler is a self-fish man who only wants to benefit himself and his country without caring about other people’s feelings. Furthermore, throughout the entire book, it is evident that Fowler is caught up in his lies. At times, it is possible to claim that he is lying to himself based on his actions. He is even in a relationship with a young woman from Vietnam known as Phuong, who causes him to have many problems, yet he does not want to do anything concerning this issue. When Fowler and Alden Pyle meet, the first impression he has about him is that he is extremely naïve.


It is no wonder that he does not share the same views as Pyle on many issues. Fowler believes that Pyle is not a genuine person who came to offer assistance to the people of  It is even the reason why that he carries out his investigations about Pyle and founds out that he is a CIA agent who is involved in the killing of innocent civilians.  Additionally, the world view presented by Pyle is naive and unrealistic according to Fowler. He believes that Pyle is an idealistic person who needs to stop following the doctrines of York Harding and come back to reality. Since Fowler is older than Pyle, he is more aware of what is taking place in the war and thus views Pyle as being ignorant.

  1. Pascal Wager- The key philosophical issue, which Greene is addressing in the quiet American, is that the United States is a materialistic society that wants to enforce its interests in other nations. It often wants to be known as being innocent, but this is not true since it keeps on interfering in the issues of other nations. Furthermore, according to Green, other nations are often not receptive when it comes to issues about the United States. On the other hand, Pascal Wager seems to concur with the notion presented by Greene concerning why Americans want to impose their culture and ideas on other nations.

It is not surprising that Pyle and Fowler cannot relate to each other well because of their different ideas. Fowler has made it known that he will never accept to following American ideals as he has his own. He thus even goes to the extent of making sure that Pyle will never have Phoung, and it reaches a point whereby he assassinates Pyle and this shows his extreme hatred for him. Therefore, the concept provided by Pascal Wagner has played a crucial role in helping understand how the two characters relate to each other.


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