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The Quiet American

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"The Quiet American"

How long can you sit on the fence and not get involved? How long before you're forced to choose sides? Thomas Fowler learns the answers to this dilemma the hard way.

Fowler at the onset of our story, describes himself as being an objective observer, purposely not taking sides, just telling over the facts. "My fellow journalists called themselves correspondents; I preferred the title of reporter. I wrote what I saw, I took no action- even an opinion is a kind of action. (20)" He even goes to the extent of frequently using opium so as not to have an opinion about his own well being. It came to the point where he felt that being alive was neither a good nor bad thing. "Aren't we all better off dead? the opium reasoned with me. (10)"

It seems Fowler doesn't even develop an opinion about the relationship between Pyle and himself. In response to Vigot's statement about being friends with Pyle, Fowler responds "I am a friendÐ'...Why not? (9)". Thomas also has a relationship with Phuong, but only views it in terms of a physical aspect and a service aspect, not letting emotions get involved. Thomas uses Phuong for her body and to prepare his opium pipes. Even when faced with the challenge of losing Phuong to Pyle, he only expresses her meaning to him exaggeratedly to his wife back home and not to Pyle or Phuong. And in the end, Fowler only "wins" her back as a result of Pyle's death, not anything he did.

Fowler wasn't judgmental of anyone. When trying to accurately describe Pyle to Vigot, Thomas says "A quiet American, I summed him precisely up as I might have said Ð''a blue lizard,' Ð''a white elephant.'(9)" The final way that Fowler decides to describe Pyle, even after setting him up to be killed is in three words, Ð''a quiet American'. Nothing he says is really penetrating about his personality, just that he's quiet and hails from America.

Fowler, in a letter from his wife, is again exposed for never taking sides. "You say that we've always tried to tell the truth to each other, but, Thomas, your truth is always so temporary. (110)" Because Fowler always tried to be objective, it even influenced his own marriage. His wife couldn't trust him because he never chose sides; he never developed his own opinions and stuck by them. Fowler's truth was always temporary because while staying objective, he never got involved enough to make himself care to maintain one position. "Ð''I'll have done my best'- aren't you thinking that? What would you do if I cabled "Yes"? Would you actually marry her? (109)" Fowler's wife calls him out on the fact that even though he is asking her for a divorce and essentially the right to marry Phuong, which he does not name, even if she does grant him what he's asking for Fowler won't be able to act on it. This Ð''truth', that fowler says he's in love with Phuong, is only temporary. If fowler were to truly love Phuong and really want to marry her he would then be in the position of choosing sides. He would finally be saying that he really isn't objective, he isn't the Ð''reporter' that he thinks he is. This is what his wife sees and therefore called him on it.

When Fowler and Pyle are trapped atop the guard tower, we get to see even more how fowler truly feels about the war that he's reporting on. When discussing with Pyle the other troops in the tower, fowler says "'They are supposed to be on our side.' Ð''I thought you didn't have a side.' Ð''TouchÐ"©,' I said. Ð''I wish the Viets knew it.'(91)" Later on Fowler reiterates, "It wasn't my war, but I wished those others in the dark knew that as well" Fowler feels that as long as he himself doesn't choose a side he won't or can't get hurt. He thinks that as long as he hasn't chosen who he thinks is in the right they can't pass judgment on him. He fails to realize, though, that one never seems to be objective from the outside and that only if those guard actually met him or saw him would they know the "truth" but by then it would already be too late.

Fowler also throughout the book expresses uneasiness about York Harding and his writings. This display perfectly flows from his unwillingness



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