In Graham Greene’s The Quiet American, Greene uses the characters Thomas Fowler and Alden Pyle to represent a greater picture. In the interactions among these characters, he is simplifying the situation in Vietnam into a personal model to be viewed. Graham Greene developed the attitudes and personalities of his characters almost to be a condensed legend of the countries they represented. In their actions, and opinions formed on them by others, was a reflection of the general feeling overall in Vietnam.
Alden Pyle is the title quiet American sent to Vietnam with orders. Seemingly he is quiet because he is the innocent, neutral party coming to aid by selling plastic. He has a good reputation, and is very curt and proper. Na?ve is best to superficially describe his demeanor; he is only trying to help. But ignorance is probably better to this character for he
does not realize the destruction he is causing and does not realize that he is more meddlesome than helpful. And that is exactly what Graham Greene is
trying to portray this character’s representation of the United States. Pyle as an individual reflects America as a whole as they were seen as ignorantly trying to interfere in Vietnam, being neutral. But actually harming in trying to help Pyle as a character and as the symbol of his country was portrayed of promising the Vietnamese things, trying to forge for them a new life they did not need nor understand. This is seen with his relationship with Phuong as he woos her away from Thomas Fowler with promises of skyscrapers and the Statue of Liberty.
Phuong, can be seen as the innocent country Vietnam whose promising lands pose the stage for a war between the politics of greedier forces. Phuong and the majority of Vietnam, the peasants, know nothing but their simple existence. They farm their rice paddies; they sustain themselves- that is all they know. No matter who wins the war, how will it affect most of the
country? Will they not go back to doing the same thing they did the day before? And yet you have America coming in monitoring the war, aiding sides,
imposing democracy. Very much just confusing the Vietnamese, and confusing the problems already present with promises that the Vietnamese don’t quite comprehend. Such is the case with Pyle and Phuong. Pyle like America is distracting the Vietnamese with ideals that are not essential to them, like Phuong who is naively caught up with the grand notions of it all.
Thomas Fowler is the main character in The Quiet American and he is the embodiment of his homeland, Great Britain in the story. Greene is portraying
England’s views of the situation in Vietnam through the eyes of their representative, Fowler. Fowler is not very fond of Pyle and sees his actions as cold and cruel. And yet perhaps as England, he is trying to not get in to involved in emotions of the situation as he claims Phuong is needed by him as only a sexual object. He denounces God, and points out the ignorance in Pyle, yet he says, One has to take sides. If one is to remain human (174). So what side is Fowler on, though he claims he is just there to report the happenings of the war. Green may have pointed out some kind of dissention between England and the United States with the love triangle set up between the two and Phuong. Greene subtly and deftly intertwines the lives of his characters with their larger counterparts. Are they both trying to help
Vietnam? Or are they simply meddling in affairs that don’t concern them. In the end Pyle ended up dead. A grisly foreboding of things to come?