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Graham Greene's The Quiet American: Alden Pyle As The Antagonist

1018 words - 4 pages

“The Quiet American”, written by Graham Greene is a story of how the lives of two very different characters – Thomas Fowler and Alden Pyle get intertwined. Fowler is a cynical, jaded, middle-aged war correspondent while Pyle is young, earnest and full of ideas. Despite being portrayed as naive and well-intentioned, I agree with the statement that Pyle is the ‘bad guy’, or rather, the antagonist in the novel.Alden Pyle came from a well-respected family – his father has appeared on the cover of Times magazine as a renowned professor of underwater erosion and his mother is well respected in their East Coast community. Pyle himself is a brilliant Harvard graduate who came to Vietnam brimming with the ideas of York Harding, a American foreign policy theorist who proposed that a ‘Third Force’ is needed to control the spread of communism in Vietnam. Pyle starts out as a young, innocent, and easy-to-love character, but as the story unravels, his naivety becomes dangerous as he started to mess around with forces he didn’t quite understand.Thomas Fowler on the other hand, is introduced as a cynical, adulterous, opium-smoking man jaded by the horrors of the war. However, his all-too-human heart is revealed as he watches the world around him crumble as a result of Pyle’s incessant meddling, both in the warfare and in his personal love life. Fowler’s deep feelings and his ability to see the big picture of the Vietnam situation is a stark contrast to Pyle’s insensitive and tactless way of thinking. This clearly makes Thomas Fowler the ‘good guy’ while Pyle is the unwanted trouble-maker of the story. The characters in this novel are representatives of their respective countries: Fowler represents England and France while Pyle is a personification of America.Pyle’s barefaced naivety comes across as endearing at first, but we soon discover the darker side of it. He innocently barges into Fowler’s life, became something of a nuisance, and then proceeds to uproot everything Fowler had to live for – his comfortable life, his impartiality and most importantly, his Phuong. Pyle fell in love with Phuong the first time he met her at the Continental, where she was together with Fowler. He was stricken by her fragility and decided that it was his job to protect her and give her a better life. He does this with dogged determination with no regards at all for Fowler’s, and even Phuong’s feelings. In fact, Pyle seems to be totally incapable of comprehending other peoples’ emotions. He apologised by saying, “These things happen. I wish it had happened to anybody else but you...” This sentence displays Pyle’s determination on getting what he wants, even if he has to trample on his friends’ hearts. The statement ‘These things happen’ is just really insensitive and cruel. The other things he says like “She’ll just have to choose between us,...

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