Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Vietnam. Country in Southeast Asia that was colonized by France during the late nineteenth century. The novel is set in Vietnam in the early 1950’s at a time when the Vietnamese people believe they have earned their independence, but the French still refuse to withdraw. From their ostensibly secure base in Saigon, the French rule an uneasy country, one whose countryside and northern districts are controlled by nationalist forces known as the Viet Minh. Into a complex atmosphere of political intrigue and violence, Graham Greene interweaves a psychological study of a murdered American espionage agent and a British journalist.

The novel is a partly autobiographical account of Greene’s own time in Vietnam, where he was a journalist in 1951 to 1952. His narrator, Thomas Fowler, is also a war correspondent stationed in Saigon through whose eyes readers learn of the murky political situation developing with the increasing American presence in Southeast Asia.


*Saigon (SI-gahn; now Ho Chi Minh City). Capital of colonial Cochin China. A French stronghold, Saigon is the site for much of the action in The Quiet American. The fact that terrorist attacks and bombings occur in the midst of this urbane and sophisticated center of French colonial culture provides strong evidence for the disintegration of French control. The novel depicts Saigon as the center of a culture degraded by...

(The entire section is 540 words.)