The Quiet American Essay

The Quiet American Essay

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Lois T. Stover (2001), a prominent academic in the field of young adult literature, states that, "Good young adult literature deals with the themes and issues that mirror the concerns of society out of which it is produced.” Graham Greene's novel, The Quiet American, complexly reflects upon the role of bystanders in society, who resort to apathy in difficult circumstances which do not affect them. Through the character of Fowler, the novel demonstrates that no one can remain uninvolved because his or her morals or feelings will inevitably be impacted by events around them. Greene also presents the complex concept that people will be involved in situations around them due to the nature of human behaviour, and that those who choose to be detached will inevitably be forced to engage in challenging situations. In its meaningful intricacy, Greene invites teenage readers to evaluate their engagement with events and issues pertinent in society, allowing them to understand the complexities of dealing with these issues.
From the outskirt, “The Quiet American” presents the binary of bystanders versus active participants, and how everyone should be engaged in complex circumstances. Greene creates the invited reading that a person who is detached is simply denying their moral compass to choose a side, especially during a controversial situation. Greene does this through the character of Fowler, a cynical bystander who insists on his non-engagement throughout the novel by stating, ‘I wrote what I saw. I took no action – even an opinion is a kind of action.’ (pg28) However, the introduction of a young idealistic American called Pyle causes Fowler to rethink his ideologies regarding involvement and inaction. Pyle is regarded as naïve and innoce...


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... say that I was sorry.’ (pg189)
The Quiet American is an excellent example of a literary text that showcases important values and messages to young adult readers, encouraging them to be more aware of their surroundings. As Stover states, a novel has to, “…help readers understand the complexities and shades of grey involved in dealing with these issues.” This novel accurately mirrors the concerns society has regarding detachment and involvement, and helps young adults develop a more complex understanding of society through the reader's interaction with Fowler’s personal reflections and actions. In order to deal with the issues Greene implicitly outlines, an individual must be engaged with the issues pertinent in society, and to do that, they must understand the issue at large in society, and Graham Greene helps adolescent readers do just that with The Quiet American.

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