Desire and Colonialism: "The Quiet American" Book Review by Nicky

This essay discusses the themes of desire and colonialism of "The Quiet American," a novel by Graham Green set in Vietnam.
# 128738 | 1,793 words | 1 source | MLA | 2010 | US
Published on Aug 06, 2010 in History (Asian) , History (European) , Literature (American)

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This essay analyzes themes presented in Graham Green's novel "The Quiet American." The essay discusses the obvious topics of American ignorance and the European colonization and nationalist conflict in Vietnam but goes deeper in analyzing the themes of how colonialism and cultural oppression become "written" on the bodies of women, how love for the exotic "other" is really self-love and how horrific actions are justified as necessary through false rationalization in the European colonial mindset. Further, the essay describes the human tendency to project one's own needs upon the exterior world that is portrayed in the novel. The article argues that in the novel, neither of the main character's ideology is correct because even though the actions of both men may seem less exploitative than measure taken by their fellow Americans, both men look at the nation of Vietnam and see only their own desires.

From the Paper:

In The Quiet American, The British narrator, Thomas Fowler, comes from a nation that has colonized many other countries even though the war in Indochina seems specifically like an American anticommunist struggle. Fowler thinks he is 'above' what he sees before him, because he is an objective reporter, just like he is above the religious sensibilities of his wife that prevent him from marrying his Vietnamese lover Phuong. Fowler's favorite phrase about himself is that he is: ''Not involved,'' a phrase that he describes as ''article of my creed. The human condition being what it was, let them fight, let them love, let them murder, I would not be involved, my fellow journalists called themselves correspondents. I preferred the title of reporter. I wrote what I saw. I took no action - even opinion is a kind of an action (Greene 29). This is somewhat disingenuous, of course, given the way that reporting in Vietnam is portrayed throughout the book. For example, in one incident the reporter Fowler meets with the Catholic Lieutenant Peraud, to observe a ceremony in honor of the Virgin of Fatima, which is disrupted by an attack by the rebel forces.

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Greene, Graham. The Quiet American. New York: Penguin Classics, 1973.

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