Manara - Qatar Research Repository
10.1057_s42738-021-00075-0.pdf (575.01 kB)

“God save us always from the innocent and the good”: American versus European Exceptionalism in Graham Greene’s The Quiet American

Download (575.01 kB)
journal contribution
posted on 2022-11-22, 21:17 authored by Thomas Ross Griffin

This essay argues that by challenging the rectitude of American intervention in Vietnam, The Quiet American is the means by which Greene criticises the American exceptionalism of the post-World War 2 era. It shows how the nation’s exceptionalism is built upon a fantasy of American idealism that masks the true intentions hidden behind America’s crusade against Communism. It proposes also that Greene uses his novel to highlight the existence of a European exceptionalism as potent as its transatlantic equivalent, and one much overlooked in contemporary discourse on Vietnam. The crux of Greene’s critique is located in Alden Pyle. Propped up by what Said describes as “structures of attitude and reference”, the article argues that Pyle’s rhetoric and actions demonstrate the blind commitment to American exceptionalism that Greene challenges in the text. The essay uses Donald Pease’s concept of the State of Exception to draw a parallel between the British journalist Thomas Fowler and Pyle to argue that in orchestrating the assassination of the latter, Fowler adopts the moral purpose that had prompted much of the American aid worker’s actions throughout the novel. It argues that this European version of exceptionalism comes from what Greene believed to be the suitability of European powers to oversee change in Vietnam, one that America was ill-equipped to handle. The essay ends by suggesting that The Quiet American was not so much what Diana Trilling described as “Mr Greene’s affront to America”, but an attempt to defend Europe amidst the onset of American dominance.

Other Information

Published in: Journal of Transatlantic Studies
See article on publisher's website:



  • English


Springer Science and Business Media LLC

Publication Year

  • 2021

Institution affiliated with

  • Qatar University

Usage metrics

    Manara - Qatar Research Repository



    Ref. manager