Phuong -the Quiet American

In: English and Literature

Submitted By carmela73
Words 1384
Pages 6
PHUONG

In regards to Phuong we only know what Fowler or Pyle choose to tell us. Edward Said tells us in _Orientalism_ how Flaubert depicts an Egyptian courtesan, we know what “HE” says about her but we never get to really know her emotions because he speaks for her and represents her, and I think the same happens to Phuong.

What we learn about Vietnamese women in the novel is depicted in images we are told from Fowler:
“Lovely flat figures—the white silk trousers—the long tight jackets in pink and mauve patterns”, bicycles at sunset, female gossip, and sexual intercourse.

Sex is “received” by women either passively as in the case of Phuong (this is one of the differences I have found between the book and the film) or the other face of sex is with prostitutes (Granger in the House of the Five Hundred Girls).

So, the general perception I have got is that the main feminine traits of Vietnamese women are: submissiveness, quietness and obedience. I don’t know if these really correspond with the reality at the time and place. I personally found these ideas rather phallocentric and misogynist.

Fowler is a cynical man who doesn’t want to get involved in war and who is not committed formally to his romantic relationship. He treats women as dumb objects. He uses them and likes to be served and pampered by them.
In the middle of one of the violent war encounters in which he is immerse, he thinks in Phuong, but not in her as her beloved partner, but rather, he wonders if she has taken his suits to the cleaners.

However as we can expect from Graham Greene, Paradoxes are present and this cynic man turns to be the good one at the end of the novel whereas the supposedly “good”, innocent and courteous American, Pyle, turns out to be a dangerous, merciless and unscrupulous man.

Again paradoxically, on the one hand, we have Pyle. He is the one who wants to…...

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