In a response of at least three pages, examine the significance of the scene in
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In a response of at least three pages, examine the significance of the scene in which Thomas Fowler accompanies Captain Trouin on a dive bombing mission (Part III, Chapter 1, 148-53).
An analysis of a scene involves considering its contribution to the advancement of plot, to the development of character, and to the building of the underlying ideas central to the novel. This essay topic, then, prompts students to interpret the significance of the dive bombing scene relative to the larger movements of meaning in Graham Greene’s The Quiet American. For the purposes of this analysis, we shall consider the dive bombing scene to include all that takes place in the presence of Captain Trouin, including the scene in the opium den.
To help students find a focus for the scene analysis, here are three interpretive prompts that may be helpful in organizing your thoughts for a critical response:
— Captain Trouin is a minor character, appearing in fewer than five pages of the novel. Nonetheless, he speaks directly to the prominent theme of Involvement at a dramatic point in the movement of the novel, both in his dialogue with Fowler and through his example as a seasoned, professional warrior who carries the burden of guilt for his participation in the war. What is the significance of Captain Trouin in the development of the theme of involvement and how does his contribution relate to earlier key points advancing this theme?
— The dive bombing mission with Captain Trouin presents yet another instance in which Fowler indulges his death wish, this time with circumstances placing him in the danger zone. How does this scene relate to the earlier ones in which he dares death? How does it contribute to the understanding of Fowler’s character, particularly concerning his fixation on death as the ultimate escape from involvement, as the only source of permanence and constancy? What message does Trouin deliver to him that challenges Fowler’s assumptions about detachment and neutrality? What does the episode in the opium suggest regarding the conflict between Fowler’s determination to remain uninvolved and his difficulties rising to the moment?
— Captain Trouin may function as a clear character contrast, or foil, to Alden Pyle. While both are figures of deep involvement in the suffering of others, they comprehend their engagement and responsibility in starkly different terms.
Students (particularly those who have completed reading the novel) may want to examine the significance this minor character holds is helping us to see in sharper relief elements of Pyle intervention in the affairs of Vietnam. The virtues of humanity we discover in Trouin may become a guide to the absence of virtue in Pyle’s idealism and innocence. What do their differences suggest about the paradoxical danger of innocence embodied in the young American?