The Quiet American

by Graham Greene

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Using any forty lines from the book, how does Graham Greene's The Quiet American demonstrate the lack of accountability and transparency within authoritarian governments?

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In order to answer this prompt, you might consider sections of the book which deal with deception, the loss of life, and a loss of innocence.

One such section of text appears in part 3, chapter 1, section 4. Fowler decides to take a trip to Haiphong with Captain Trouin as a means of "killing time and thought" and avoiding his own inner conflicts. After bombing the "enemy" numerous times, Trouin turns his weapons on a single sampan which floats near fields of rice:

Down we went again, away from the gnarled and fissured forest towards the river, flattening out over the neglected rice fields, aimed like a bullet at one small sampan on the yellow stream. The cannon gave a single burst of tracer, and the sampan blew apart in a shower of sparks: we didn't even wait to see our victims struggling to survive but climbed and made for home. I thought again as I had thought when I saw the dead child at Phat Diem, "I hate war." There had been something so shocking in our sudden fortuitous choice of a prey—we had just happened to be passing, one burst only was required, there was no one to return our fire, we were gone again, adding our little quota to the world's dead.

This passage begs readers to question who the true "enemy" really is. Is it the government? If so, which one? Who demonstrates authoritarian rule in this passage? Why inflict such devastation on civilians? Even worse—who will ever know of or mourn this loss? Captain Trouin moves on from the event with a sense of emotionless detachment, telling Fowler that he really can't miss the "wonderful" sunset. As he flies away, the "wound of murder cease[s] to bleed," demonstrating the insignificance of human life within the context of war.

Particularly in the last third of this work, there are numerous passages which deal with similar feelings of loss and deception. Consider how a lack of accountability blurs the lines of justice as you read these passages.

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