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One of the fascinating aspects of this masterful novel is the way in which the characterisation of the two male characters is used to present contrasting and conflicting ideas and approaches towards foreign policy. The character of Pyle is meant to stand as a symbol for the naivety and innocence of America compared with the cynical and worldly-wise approach of Fowler, representing Europe. Pyle, in his desire to become involved and to try and help and improve the situation in Vietnam shows an incredible innocence in the way that he remains blissfully unaware of how his actions can actually cause more damage and harm than they do good. He is a character whose political idealism and romanticism above all show his innocence.
I think if we take this innocence into the 21st century, America has become far less innocent than the way Pyle responds to the situation in Vietnam. Let us remember that this book was written before America's messy and costly involvement in conflicts such as Vietnam, and there has been a noted development in American foreign policy since that date. Perhaps we could argue that an element of that innocence remains, but we have to acknowledge that America has learnt a lot through its costly involvement in the problems of other countries, as cases such as Somalia indicate.
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