Person from the eastern coastal portion of Indo-China, which became part of Vietnam in 1946. (p.12)


From George Berkeley and Irish bishop and idealist philosopher (1685-1753). His earliest thinking encompassed the idea that visual experience did not constitute proof that something existed, hence Fowler's comment to Pyle on page 94.

Byron, Lord George

English Romantic poet (1788-1824). He became impassioned with his desire to free the Greeks from their subjugation to the Turks but he died of fever in Greece before he saw any military action on their behalf. Lines from his poem ‘Don Juan' are used as a preface to the novel and the ideas they embody clearly inform much of Greene's thinking.


Indigenous Vietnamese religion centred in Tay Ninh (Tanyin) Province, southern Vietnam. It was founded and initially propagated by Ngo Van Chieu, a minor official who, in 1919, claimed to have had a series of spiritual revelations. The faith grew under the leadership of Le Van Trung, its first "pope" or Supreme Chief, chosen in 1925. Doctrinally, the religion is a blend of Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism and Western nineteenth-century romanticism. Before the fall of Saigon, the Cao Dai had about 1 to 2 million adherents.

Clough, Arthur H.

English poet (1819-61) whose poetry questioned the doctrinaire attitudes of his day. It is from his poem, Spectator Ab Extra , that Fowler reads as he gives the signal that will lead to Pyle's death. (p.177). Lines from another of Clough's poems, ‘Amour de Voyage', Canto II, preface the novel along with those from ‘Don Juan' by Byron.


A complex process that became prevalent amongst major world powers from the fifteenth century onwards. Used as a means of expanding territory, resources and/or influence, it turned the world into a sort of giant Monopoly game where humanity was seen as expendable in the face of the covetous desire for wealth and power. It was a system much deplored by Greene.

Crane, Stephen

1871-1900. Writer of poems and novels, noted for his daring journalistic exploits. His most famous book, The Red Badge of Courage, an “eye-witness account” of the American Civil War, won him enormous acclaim and set a standard (to which Granger refers on page 36) for managing to write convincingly about a war in which he was not involved.

Hoa Hao

Indigenous Vietnamese religion centred in An Giang Province, southern Vietnam. It was founded in the 1930s by Huynh Phu So, the son of a village elder in Chau Doc Province. Doctrinally, the faith is a variant of Mahayana Buddhism, but unlike Caodaism, allows no intermediary between man and the Supreme Being. Before the fall of Saigon in 1975, the Hoa Hao had more than 1 million adherents.


A derivative of a particular sort of poppy, opium forms the basis for some modern medicines and banned drugs such as heroin. In Asian countries it was freely available until the middle of the twentieth century and smoked for its stimulant, intoxicant or narcotic effect. Wars have been fought over opium and, whilst Fowler believes it sharpens his senses and makes his head clearer, Greene also shows its devastating effect through Mr Chou who ‘smokes one hundred and fifty pipes every day.' (p.127)

The Office of Strategic Services (O.S.S.) was a United States intelligence agency formed during World War II. It was the wartime intelligence agency, and it was the predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). This agency was formed in order to coordinate espionage activities behind enemy lines for the branches of the United States military.

Pascal, Blaise

French mathematician, physicist and moralist (1623-62). His literary reputation rests on two works: La Provinciales and Pensées , an incomplete defence of the Christian religion. These two texts form a survey of the contradictions of human existence. Vigot is reading Pascal's Pensées when we first meet him (p.16) and it is this fact that allows Fowler to see him in the guise of a priest to whom he feels tempted to confess (p.168).

Quatre Cent Vingt-et-un

A game of dice in which each player is allowed three throws of three dice. Each player has 11 counters to begin with and they share another stock of 10 counters. The winner is the one who is left with no counters.

Thé, Colonel Trin Minh

Caodaist army officer who favoured neither the French nor the Communists. He set himself up as the leader of the National Resistance Front with whom the Americans were in contact before the French left the country and the Americans moved in. Greene uses his connection with Pyle to express his disapproval of Thé and the Americans alike. Some believe, however, that without Thé there would be no tragedy in the book.

Third Force

Pyle sees a Third Force as being the answer to the problems in Vietnam. This is something his hero, York Harding, has proposed and Pyle zealously embraces this idea as a forerunner to America's involvement in the country. It is this ‘Third Force' that admits responsibility for the series of bicycle bombs.

Viet Minh

Contraction of the term Viet Nam Doc Lap Dong Minh Hoi (Vietnam Independence League), a coalition of nationalist elements dominated by the communists and led by veteran revolutionary Ho Chi Minh. The movement first identified itself in May 1941, when it called for an uprising against the French colonial government. It proclaimed the independence of Vietnam on September 2, 1945, and led the anti-French guerrilla war that followed until the victory at Dien Bien Phu (1954) brought the conflict to an end. In The Quiet American , Pyle's allegiance is to the anti-communist forces led by General Thé whereas Mr Heng's loyalty is to the Viet Minh.

The Quiet American : An English website unit developed by George Marootus with additional material by VATE and contributions by Bianca de Vos and Sam Bryant. Website designed and constructed by George Marotous.
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