The Quiet American by Graham Greene

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Graham Greene's novel, The Quiet American, is more than a political statement about whether or not America or any other country for that matter should become involved in the affairs of another country; Greene makes the question human and personal. The novel can be read as a political and moral reflection on the opening stages of the United States’ involvement in Southeast Asia. Therefore, Greene’s novel becomes a commentary on the pointlessness of the United States’ later investment of men and material in a political action that could only end, as it did for the French, in defeat. The Quiet American is considered one of Graham Greene’s major achievements. The story is told with excellent characterization and sophisticated irony. The plot bears a resemblance to that of a mystery story. A crime has been committed. Who is the murderer? As in most mystery stories, as much needs to be learned about the victim as about the villain. Yet what is learned takes on political, moral, and religious significance. The story ends in mystery as well. Who exactly killed Pyle is not revealed, but the burden of the crime, like the burden of telling the story, is Fowler’s. The large-scale political thesis of the novel is that American interference in the internal affairs of another country can only result in suffering, death, and defeat, and is not morally justifiable because of abstract idealism. This is not the only meaning of consequence in the novel, and given the course of later events, its importance may be blown out of proportion. The lesson, however, is clearly explained by a French aviator with “orders to shoot anything in sight.” Captain Trouin confides to Fowler that he detests napalm bombing: “We all get involved in a moment of emotion, and then we cannot get out,” he explains. Trouin understands that the French cannot win the war in Indochina: “But we are professionals; we have to go on fighting till the politicians tell us to stop,” he says with bitter resignation....
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