The Quiet American Essay
The Quiet American
In The Quiet American, the character of Fowler is, at first, presented as a selfish and uncaring man. However, this is not how he is perceived at the end of the story. Initially, the reader is shown that Fowler’s ego prevents him from thinking of anyone other than himself. Fowler is no hero and spends a lot of time trying to convince us that he is not engage or involved. However, this is not how the reader finally sees Fowler at the conclusion of the story. As Fowler begins to get involved with the situation around him he begins to show that he isn’t just an uncaring and selfish man.
At the beginning of The Quiet American, Fowler is portrayed as a cynical and self-centered character. It is expressed that Fowler does not care for anybody but himself, this includes Phuong. He is shown not to care for Phuong, her wants or needs, but only for the companionship she offers to him. This is especially expressed when Fowler says to Pyle “I don’t care for her interests. You can have her interests. I only want her body. I want her in bed with me.” This in itself is incredibly selfish of Fowler. Although Fowler is constantly sarcastic and cynical to Pyle “Like any other woman she’d rather have a good…” He does still see himself as Pyle’s protector, “That was my first instinct – to protect him,” this proves the fact that even though Fowler shows himself as a cynical observer, he is actually a compassionate participant in the events throughout the novel.
As the narrator, throughout the story Fowler paints a picture of himself as a reporter, an observer, but continually tries to convince the reader that he is “not involved.” However, as the narrative progresses, we see that Fowler’s attitude toward the events surrounding him become one of ever-increasing engagement. With this increased level of involvement, he begins to feel somewhat personally responsible for the events occurring around him. Likewise, as his involvement increases so does his true nature arise.
By the end of the novel, the reader has been shown a side of Fowler that, at first, could not be envisioned, as he began so cynical and self-absorbed, but by the conclusion, is shown as a changed man. Fowler, initially, says that he only wants Phuong for “her body”, he actually deeply loves her, but it is only once he has been stripped of her, by Pyle, that he realizes it, “If I lost her, for me, it would be the beginning of death.”.
It is possible to argue that Fowler’s motive for leading Pyle to his downfall is that he, yet again, being selfish and uncaring, thinking only of how he can get Phuong back and not caring of the consequences that may follow. Fowler realizes what would seem to be an alternate motive for him to lead Pyle to his death (killing him to win Phuong back) but he establishes that he did not kill Pyle because of this. He states “Everything had gone right with me since he had died, but how I wished there existed someone to whom I could say that I was sorry.” Showing not only did he not expect everything to go his way, but the remorse he has for what he has done. Regardless, this is not the motive that Fowler presents.
He says that “He(Pyle)’s has got to be stopped” and that “there was a woman there whose baby – she kept it under her straw hat. I can’t get it out of my head.” This involvement, this guilt, makes Fowler feel that it is his duty to put a stop to Pyle. Fowler tells Mr. Heng that he “cannot be at ease if someone else is in pain.” This is the biggest indication of Fowler’s change in personality, or just that he no longer masks his caring attitude with sarcasm and cynicism.
In the beginning of The Quiet American, Fowler presents himself as a man who cares little, if at all about anybody but himself, referring to Phuong as an object to be used, and constantly reassuring himself and the reader that he is “degage”. However, as the story begins to unfold, Fowler’s true personality is revealed, he can no longer mask the feelings he has, towards Phuong, “If I lost her, for me, it would be the beginning of death,” and towards the events around him.