This is Alden Pyle’s narrative of the protagonist Thomas Fowler.
‘The Quiet American’ is a classic thriller novel on Indochina conflict which revolves around two characters. The practical Thomas Fowler, and the idealist Alden Pyle. The book runs as a commentary by Fowler. I tried to look at the story from another angle, that of Pyle’s.
So here it is :
“Thomas takes me for a fellow who lives in his own utopian world of ideals and principles. He thinks I am ignorant to the ground realities and the practical perspective of life. He believes he has seen too much as a reporter and overestimates his point of view to the point where he gets personally involved. He cannot stay away, he has to be there, even with Phuong. For once I had found love which was already crushed under his crude practicality and utterly simple notions. Phuong is a kid who doesn’t understand right from wrong. All of Fowler’s cynicism is for naught because it originates from something that is not factual or even practical. He is sensible most of the times and logical always but Thomas doesn’t want to accept he has emotions because it will make him feel vulnerable. He despises me for being a thought experiment for Harding, thinks I am a guinea pig in Harding’s research which he berates extremely superficial and far from reality and truth. Fowler with all his logicalities doesn’t realize the shortest way to end suffering is through pain. He claims to know the problem from deep down below but he couldn’t be farther from the truth.
He treats Phuong the way he has treated every moment of his life, the way he has treated nations and people of high honour, as they passed under his ink. Fowler thinks everybody owes him a piece of their lives and he has always taken people the same way, handled them like objects. He longs for happiness while throwing it away for what he believes is the truth about the world. Fowler has a distinctive eye through which he sees a distorted world that he thinks he can change by his own indulgence, he doesn’t care about the killing of conscience of many as long as their bodies remain unharmed.
He has been a part of Saigon for the last two years, never truly understanding the way it all works. He doesn’t believe it is the war until he is neck deep in the midst of action and bombing. He poses to be tough and informed, but deep down he is beaten by fear and conflict. Fowler has been in here too long lying dormant and motionless while the enemy slithers around him. He has submitted to the comforts of physical love when he must seek mental peace. He has replaced love with sex, emotions with logic and plays a dangerous game where he loses everything and ultimately that which he loves most.”