The Quiet American

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Important Quotes Explained

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Quote 2

“‘I’m not involved. Not involved.’ I repeated. It had been an article of my creed. The human condition being what it was, let them fight, let them love, let them murder, I could not be involved. My fellow journalists called themselves correspondents; I preferred the title of reporter. I wrote what I saw. I took no action—even an opinion is a kind of action

Fowler utters these words to Vigot when he goes to Pyle’s apartment to retrieve Phuong’s belongings in , 2. This represents Fowler’s most explicit declaration of his own desire to remain a neutral observer, a desire that he defines through his vocation as a journalist. Fowler’s personal interpretation of what it means to be a journalist draws a clear line between a correspondent and a reporter. The verb “correspond” implies a two-way action, as in the communication between two people who exchange letters or emails. By contrast, the verb “report” implies a one-way action, as in a chain of command where individuals who are lower in the chain report to their superiors. Whereas a two-way exchange opens the possibility for interaction and the development of subjective ideas, direct reportage has the air of objectivity, communicating static facts rather than deliberating opinions. Fowler , which makes him reject the other meaning of “correspondence,” in which two things are compared closely and judged to be in conformity or agreement. Fowler finds the element of judgement in such a comparison disagreeable. He prefers the directness and factuality of reporting.

Fowler’s abstract distinction between what it means to be a correspondent versus a reporter proves ironic. In the very moment he declares his desire not to have an opinion, he elaborates a strong preference for one interpretation of journalism over another. This preference is itself an opinion, one that undermines his careful distinction between correspondents and reporters. It is important to note this contradiction, as it is one of the novel’s central themes. Over the course of the story, Fowler slowly comes to understand this contradiction as he learns that it is effectively impossible to abstain from having opinions and preferences. Indeed, involvement is inevitable. This fact collapses the distance that Fowler wishes to place between himself and others, the abstract “them” who he wants to let fight, love, and murder. In The Quiet American, Fowler engages in all of these actions, making him no different than “them.”