The Quiet American is a timely reminder of the complexity of world politics. Graham Greene’s novel may have been published in 1955, but the questions it raises about the rights of Western powers to intervene in other countries’ affairs remain powerfully relevant. The most recent film version, starring Michael Caine and Brendan Fraser, was held back from release for over one year following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks the film was deemed too critical of American foreign policy at this sensitive time in world history.

Yet The Quiet American is as much about love as it is about politics: romantic love and love for a country that is not one’s own. Graham Greene manages to question traditional ideas about relationships with his characteristic insightfulness, exposing many of the unsaid notions that guide our expectations of love and romance between young and old, between East and West. The novel is also an evocative trip into another land and another time. Greene’s description of 1950s Saigon, with its sweating Westerners, vermouth-cassis aperitifs and languid opium smokers, conjures up a world of fading colonialism that has disappeared forever, while his evocations of the countryside provide a glimpse of Vietnam’s incomparable, mysterious beauty.

The web site offers you the opportunity to explore The Quiet American within both its historical and political context and as a work of literature. It provides you with extensive background material about the author and the book, a close study of characters, themes and issues, the text’s narrative elements and covers a range of tasks requiring close analysis.


Graham Greene
Historical Context

Introduction to Novel
About the Novel
A Perspective
Power, Politics and War
Personal and Public Politics


Essay Topics
Wriitng the Essay

Analysing the Novel — Tasks
Reading Guide Questions
Deep Questions
Analysing Key Passages
Analysing Characters
Analysing Themes
Key Quotations

Narrative Elements
Narrative Voice
Literary Allusions

Themes and Issues
Involvement vs Detachment
Adherence to ideology
Love and Relationships
Imperialism and Colonialism
Pursuit of Power
Reality of War
Life and Death
Ends Justify the Means

Further Reading


As some applications on the website are not compatible with mobile devices (e.g. iPhone or iPad), this website is best viewed using a PC or MAC. If your mobile device does not enable you to access the drop down menus, it is recommended you navigate this website from the Index (above).

The Quiet American : An English website unit developed by George Marootus with additional material by VATE.
Website designed and constructed by George Marotous. Contact.© English Faculty, Melbourne High School. 12 July 2010.