Brief Synopsis:

The Quiet American, originally published in 1955, is set in Vietnam during the last days of French rule. It tells the story of a developing friendship between Fowler, a middle-aged British journalist working in Saigon, and Pyle, a young "quiet American" who has come to Vietnam full of idealism. Fowler and Pyle's relationship becomes fraught on several levels: a triangle develops involving Fowler's Vietnamese mistress; and more problematically, Pyle's idealism leads him into questionable political policies and, ultimately, bloodshed.

Called the most famous Western work of fiction about Vietnam, The Quiet American delicately balances issues of personal responsibility and the global consequences of our choices. In particular, Pyle--about whom Fowler says, "I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused"--becomes a catalyst for broader questions of the morality of colonialism and war.

Discussion Questions:

1. Is it possible that Fowler remains neutral in the Vietnam/French relationship? Is it
ever possible not to take a side?

2. How does Pyle justify his own deception, yet scorn Fowler for misleading Phuong? Is it possible to distinguish between the two lies?

3. Why does Greene go to such lengths to portray Pyle as innocent yet deceived?

4. Fowler says of Pyle and the priest, "You can't blame the innocent, they are
always guiltless" but later asks, "How many dead colonels justify a
child's or a trishaw driver's death?" (163). How does Fowler distinguish between the army's spreading of democracy and the priest's propagation of religion?

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