The Quiet American

The Quiet American Imagery

Vigot's Sigh (Aural Imagery)

"When I refused to allow [Vigot] to question Phuong without me he gave way at once, with a single sigh that might have represented his weariness with Saigon, with the heat, or with the whole human condition" (8). 

In this passage, Greene uses a droning cadence and specific images to invoke the weight of Vigot's sigh. He is worn down. 

Rue Catinat (Visual and Aural Imagery)

"He would have to learn for himself the real background that held you as a smell does: the gold of rice-fields under a flat late sun: the fisher's fragile cranes ohvering over the fields like mosquitoes: the cups of tea on an old abbott's platform, wit hhis bed and his commercial calendars, his buckets and broken cups and the junk of a lifetime washed up around his chair: the mollusk hats of the girls repairing the roads where a mine had burst: the gold and the young green and the bright dresses of the south, and in the north the deep browns and black clothes and the circle of enemy mountains and the drone of planes" (p. 17). 

Here, Greene uses visual and aural imagery to point out a fundamental difference in Pyle and Fowler's perspectives. Pyle only thinks about academic theory, the 'big picture,' while Fowler takes the time to observe small details of life in Vietnam. Beyond politics, he has been in Saigon for a long time and now considers it home. 

The Detachment of War (Visual and Aural Imagery)

"From the bell tower of the Cathedral, the battle was only picturesque, fixed like a panorama of the Boer War in an old Illustrated London News. An aeroplane was parachuting supplies to an isolated post in the calcaire, those strange weather-eroded mountains on the Annam border that look like piles of pumice, and because it always returned to the same place for its glide, it might never have moved, and the parachute was always there in the same spot, half-way to earth. From the plain the mortar-bursts rose unchangingly, the smoke as solid as stone, and in the market the flames burnt palely in the sunlight. The tiny figures of the parachutists moved in single file along the canals, but at this height they appeared stationary. Even the priest who sat in the corner of the tower never changed his position as he read in his breviary. The war was very tidy and clean at that distance" (38). 

This descriptive passage functions to show that the media portrayal of the war is very different from its effects on the ground. Later in this section, Fowler comes upon a stream filled with the bodies of civilians; war might look tidy at a distance but it has disastrous effects if one is willing to look a little closer.