THe Quiet American Essay
THe Quiet American
In Graham Greene’s The Quiet American Ms. Hei compares Pyle to Fowler and states that Pyle is “… a nice and reliable”. On the surface, he seems to be decent, trustworthy and reliable and he has the sincere intention of helping the Vietnamese. However, ultimately we see that Phuong’s sister is wrong. Pyle is arrogant, believing in the absolute power of America to control Vietnam and fight communism. It is al revealed that Pyle is dishonest, as he lies about his real as an undercover agent, and does not care what the casualties from his actions may be just that he obtains the political outcome he believes is best.
In the end, Pyle is not ‘nice and reliable’ The first impression of Pyle would suggest he is, a ‘nice’, young man, who is decent, polite and chivalrous. He regularly attends church service and believes in God. Fowler describes Pyle as “a good chap in his way. Serious. Not one of those noisy bastards at the Continental. ” This description further emphasizes how Pyle in his first appearance is a conspicuously ‘quiet’ American in comparison to his fellow countrymen, like the drunken Granger. When he visits the House of Five Hundred Girls he is horrified at the exploitation of the prostitutes saying “It’s terrible…
I wouldn’t have believed”, while Granger uses their services, Pyle wants to help the prostitutes, “they were so pretty”. He also insisted on removing Phuong from a vulgar act after dinner saying “It’s not at all suitable”. Moreover, what makes Pyle acceptable in Ms. Hei’s eyes is the fact that he is willing to marry Phuong, whereas many other Western men abandon their Vietnamese girlfriends. The situation also establishes that Pyle is very honorable as he risks his life to tell Fowler about his love for Phuong and insists he “wouldn’t split up a man from his wife.
” Pyle also saves Fowler’s life at the watchtower, even though the Englishman is his rival for Phuong. Therefore, Pyle appears to be ‘nice’ Pyle can also be described as decent, because he is willing to ‘take a side’. Pyle truly believes in democracy that “If Indo-China goes, Siam goes … ” thus he wants to help the Vietnamese. To him, it is his duty to assist Vietnam in the fight against Communism, regardless of the cost to himself. He believes that Vietnam is entitled to liberty. He is willing to risk his life, unlike Fowler who does not even take a side.
Whenever Fowler criticizes York Harding, Pyle fervently defends Harding’s work. It is Pyle’s willingness to take a side that makes him appear much more decent and reliable than Fowler. Pyle is not reliable because he is a cheat and liar, not at all the ‘nice’ and ‘reliable’ man Ms. Hei envisions. Pyle works for the CIA secret service and supplies bombs to General The and funds the General’s terrorism campaign in Vietnam. Pyle is actively trying to start a war in Vietnam against communism.
Pyle uses “They don’t want Communism” as justification of his country’s action. Pyle is not even trustworthy as he seems, he lies about his involvement and claims to work for a humanitarian medical team. He lies to Fowler about the purposes of the plastic imports “Oh, you know, we want to get some of these local industries back on their feet… ” Pyle lies to Fowler inquiry. He denies having been talking to General The’s man “Oh, it was nothing, he wanted to know the price of a Buick” Pyle lies again to the purpose of his discussion.
This emphasizes how Pyle is not what he seems on the surface, and is in fact a very different person underneath. Even most of his ‘decency’ seems to just be an act. Fowler describes the whole situation seems to Pyle as “a school boy adventure”. Pyle also uses the excuse that Fowler and Phuong are not married to justify his taking Phuong away. He ignores the fact that Fowler and Phuong do indeed have a very solid relationship. On the other hand, ultimately we see how Ms Hei is deceived and Pyle is not ‘nice’.
He arrogantly believes that Americans are superior to everyone, that this entitles him to meddle in the affairs of others. He does not even attempt to understand the country like Fowler does. He does not like the ‘smells’ of Vietnam or its ‘food’. In his arrogance, he ignores a country’s right to autonomy. He also does not value Vietnamese lives as much as he does, believing that Americans are superior. “There musn’t be any American casualties, must there? ” says Pyle calmly to Fowler explaining the Continental Hotel bombing.
During the watchtower scene, he is ready to kill the innocent guards exposing that he is ruthless. He has no qualms about killing those who are in his way. Pyle does not even care about civilian casualties stating “they are just casualties of war, Thomas”. He looks down upon the French because they are losing the war and not managing to contain Communism. Pyle arrogance also extends to relationships. He believes that Phuong would willingly go with him, as “… [Phuong] can’t be happy – not in her situation. She needs children.
” Not only that, Pyle also trusts Fowler implicitly, never imagining that Fowler would betray him. His ego, leads Pyle to always believe that his actions are always for the best and that he, or America is never wrong. Though it seems on the outside Pyle is nice and chivalrous young man, he is in fact not. He is a cheat and a liar; he deceives his friends, and cares only for what he believes is right. He can calmly kill those that are in his way, and kill indiscriminately to achieve his aims. Ms Hei is mistaken when she believed that Pyle, is the ‘nice’ innocent ‘Quiet American’.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 5 September 2017
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