An Interpretation of Graham Greene's 'The Quiet American'

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Judging Pyle One of the central themes in Graham Greene's novel, The Quiet American, which functions more as the thesis of this work of literature, is loss of innocence. Most critics and readers of this book generally conclude that the loss of innocence is exemplified through the gradual debauchery of Alden Pyle, the American who comes to live in Vietnam with little first-hand experience or knowledge about the political situation or the people there. One of the principle problems with this commonly held view of interpretation, however, is that despite how innocuous a background Pyle may have had when he was in America, his actions in Vietnam are far from innocent. He steals the lover of his friend; he kills scores of innocent women and children by bombing a very public place at an hour when it is highly populated. These actions seem more befitting of a quintessential villain rather than that of an innocent man which poses a significant problem to this traditional interpretation that Greene's novel is about the loss of innocence of Pyle. However, when one examines the circumstances as well as the intentions of Pyle throughout much of his involvement in this novel which is fairly substantial it becomes clearer that for the most part the young man actually is well-intentioned, and perhaps even a victim of circumstance: something that happens to the innocent. An analysis of Pyle's wooing of Phuong, a young Vietnamese woman, from her substantially older lover Thomas Fowler,

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