The major focus of The Quiet American is upon the narrator, Thomas Fowler, who introduces and interprets Alden Pyle for the reader. The contrasts between Pyle and Fowler are those between youth and age, innocence and experience, naivete and cynicism. The younger Pyle can be regarded as both Fowler’s friend and rival. As the narrative advances, Pyle begins to emerge as Fowler’s enemy, but the man is such a trusting fool.
As a newsman, Fowler prefers to call himself a reporter rather than a correspondent. He takes professional pride in being “objective,” detached, and disengaged. His alleged detachment is contrasted to Pyle’s idealistic involvement, personally and professionally.
Professionally, Pyle works for the American Economic Aid Mission, but this is merely a cover. Pyle is in fact a CIA agent attempting to build support for the puppet warlord General The. His “mission” is not economic but military and anti-Communistic. Pyle’s cover is gradually disclosed as Fowler explains the events leading to Pyle’s murder.
On the personal level, Pyle becomes Fowler’s rival for the affection of the Vietnamese woman Phuong, who has lived with Fowler for two years. Fowler appears to love Phuong (or at least to desire her as a companion to protect him against the loneliness of old age), but he cannot offer her marriage because his wife, Helen, back in England, will not grant him a divorce. The younger Pyle offers...
(The entire section is 564 words.)