1 Fowler the Objective Reporter
2 Fowler’s Development
3 The Problem of being objective
In Graham Greene’s novel „The Quiet American“ Thomas Fowler is presented as a British reporter in his late middle age. He has been in Vietnam for several years. He has a wife in England and an affair, Phuong, in Vietnam. In the beginning Greene represents Fowler as a character who is content to observe events taking place, without a will to interfere. He is described as an objective observer who does not take sides and who is just writing about what he sees. “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.” (Greene 20).
However, throughout the book he changes. The longer the story lasts, the more he gets involved. He turns from a passive observing reporter into a reporter who takes action.
In the first part of this essay I will take a close look on the objective Thomas Fowler as he is described in the first few chapters of the book. In order to analyze his change and his work as a reporter throughout the book, we first have to know who he actually is. We also need to know what makes him and the reader believe that he is an objective reporter.
In a second step we are going to focus on his development throughout the book. Different events take place that influence him drastically. All these events finally change his way of reporting.
In a final third step we are going to take a look at the problem of getting involved. Is it actually possible for a human being to not get involved?
By focusing on these three aspects I hope to be able to answer the question if Thomas Fowler truly is an objective reporter. And if not, how did he and what did him change?
1 Fowler the Objective Reporter
As a reporter Thomas Fowler seems to be experienced. Due to his age he has a lot of live experience. And because he has been spending several years in Vietman he understands how the politics work. As a reporter Fowler has seen everything: In Phat Diem he walked by canal filled with grey drained bodies of men. It was the result of General Thé’s bombs. He also saw how an innocent mother and her son were shot by the French army. All these experiences shaped and influenced Fowler and his morality. They seem to be the reasons why he does not want to get involved: “The human condition being what it was, let them love, let them murder, I would not be involved.” (Greene 20). Additionally he smokes opium which makes him even more emotionless. It helps him to not care about everything. It helps him to let emotions out of his thinking and reasoning. And he probably uses it so as not to have an opinion about his own well being: “Aren’t we all better dead? the opium reasoned within me.” (Greene 10). Another good example about how objective and non judgmental he is, we find on page 9 when Fowler describes Pyle to Vigot: “ ‘A quiet American,’ I summed him precisely up as I might have said, ‘a blue lizard,’ ‘a white elephant.’ ” (Greene 9). This is a objective information. He does not say anything about their friendship or relation. He simply describes him like a stranger would probably describe Pyle after having spent a few minutes with him. Although he could say much more about Pyle and their friendship the description “A quiet American” is accurate and precise. Fowler seems to be able to find the right words to describe something complex in an objective way.
A look at Fowler’s love life strengthens the impression that he never gets involved and is truly objective. In a letter from his wife, he is again exposed for never taking sides. Because he always wants to stay objective, he influenced his marriage negatively. “You say that we’ve always tried to tell the truth to each other, but, Thomas, your truth is always so temporary.” (Greene 110). For the wife it is impossible to trust him, because he never chooses sides. By no means he develops his own opinions and sticks to them. He is never involved enough to make himself care to maintain one opinion. This is actually an important characteristic for a reporter. One has to look at things and write about them as if it was the first time you get in contact with it. Feelings, past experiences or opinions could influence the objectivity negatively.