Key Quotations

  1. Be able to qualify and discuss the significance of the quotations you use.
  2. What do the following quotations tell us about the themes and characters?
  3. Be sure you have thorough knowledge of the context and significance / meaning of each quotation.
  4. Add to these quotations.


  • If only it were possible to love without injury” (Fowler, p. 119)

  • “War and Love – they have always been compared” (Trouin, p. 152)

  • “Wouldn’t we all do better not trying to understand ... another, not a wife a husband, a lover a mistress, nor a parent a child? Perhaps that’s why men have invented God – a being capable of understanding” (p.60)

  • “I knew I was inventing a character just as much as Pyle was ... one never knows another human being” (pp.132-133)

  • “Tell her I don’t expect her to love me right away. That will come in time, but tell her what I offer is security and respect. That doesn’t sound very exciting, but perhaps it’s better than passion” (Pyle, p. 78).

  • “We are fools ... when we love. I was terrified of losing her. I thought I saw her changing ... I couldn’t bear the uncertainty any longer. I ran towards the finish like a coward runs towards the enemy and wins a medal. I wanted to get death over .... It was a kind of death” (p. 103)


  • “... here in the East – well, I don’t like Ike” (pp. 97-98)

  • “We’ve no business here. It’s their country” (p. 107)

  • “give her a decent life”, because “this place – smells” (Pyle, p. 133)

  • “Do you think they know they are fighting for Democracy? We ought to have York Harding here to explain it to them” (p. 93)

  • “This was a land of rebellious barons. It was like Europe in the Middle Ages. But what were the Americans doing here? Columbus had not yet discovered their country” (p. 37)

  • “We’ve no business here. It’s their country” (p. 107)

Reality of war

  • “What I detest is napalm bombing. From 3,000 feet, in safety ... You see the forest catching fire. God knows what you would see from the ground” (p. 151)

  • “York Harding is the man you’re looking for, Vigot. He killed Pyle - at long range” (p. 167)

  • “the war was very tidy and clean at that distance’ (Fowler from the bell-tower, p. 46)

  • “Irish stew containing too much meat” (Fowler at close range, p. 5 1)

  • “We didn’t even wait to see our victims struggling to survive, but climbed and made for home” (p. 150)

  • “The sight of Oedipus emerging with his bleeding eyeballs from the palace at Thebes would surely give a better training for life today” (p. 182).

Religion – beliefs and convictions – humankind’s place in the world

  • “I had never desired faith. The job of a reporter is to expose and record. I had never in my career discovered the inexplicable” (p. 88)

  • “The father at my side said in explanation, “We are neutral here. This is God’s territory.” I thought, It’s a strange poor population God has in his kingdom, frightened, cold, starving” (p. 49)

  • “Everything had gone right with me since he had died, but how I wished there existed someone to whom I could say that I was sorry” (p. 189)

  • “Two hideous oleographs of the Sacred Heart and the Mother and Child .... One knew what these people believed even if one didn’t share their belief they were human beings, not just grey drained cadavers” (pp. 52 53).

  • “We didn’t want to be reminded of how little we counted, how quickly, simply and anonymously death came” (p. 52)

  • “It is almost as though someone in those vast spaces is trying to communicate a message of good will, for even the names of the stars are friendly” (p. 98)

  • Perhaps that’s why men have invented God – a being capable of understanding.

  • “Let us weigh the gain and loss ... in wagering that God is .... If you gain, you gain all; if you lose you lose nothing” (If God really exists, one is saved; if God does not exist, life is without meaning, and therefore there is nothing to be lost) (Vigot, p. 139)

Attitudes to violence do the ends justify the means?

  • “I thought, I hate war” (p. 53)

  • “The helmeted Martian face looked wistfully out, down the golden groves among the great humps and arches of porous stone, and the wounds of murder ceased to bleed” (p. 150)

  • “How many dead colonels justify a child’s or a trishaw driver’s death when you are building a national democratic front? (p. 163)

  • “They were only war casualties ... they died for democracy” (Pyle, p. 179)

From disengagement to engagement

  • “I don’t take sides. I’ll be reporting, whoever wins”

  • “I don’t know what I’m talking politics for. They don’t interest me and I’m a reporter. I’m not engagé” (Fowler, p. 96)

  • “One day something will happen. You will take a side” (p. 115)

  • “You’re engagé, like the rest of us” (Vigot, p. 138)

  • “Sooner or later ... one has to take sides. If one is to remain human” (Heng, p. 174)

  • “Was I so different to Pyle .... Must I too have my foot thrust in the mess of life before I saw the pain?” (pp. 185–186)
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.
Contact.© English Faculty, Melbourne High School. 12 July 2010