In Graham Greene’s novel The Quiet American, when following the milk bar bombing Alden Pyle appears incapable of realizing that The Third Force with which he has aligned himself is a terrorist organization capable of killing dozens of non-combatants, Thomas Fowler experiences his “moment of emotion,” setting the course for his involvement in Pyle’s death. Fowler concludes that talking further with Pyle was useless: “You can’t blame the innocent. The innocent are always guiltless. All you can do is control them or eliminate them. Innocence is a kind of insanity.” At the conclusion of the bombing scene, under the influence of the image of the mother holding her dead infant and the legless trishaw driver, two of the victims of General The’s “demonstration,” Fowler abandons his detachment and heads to the Quay Mytho to see Mr. Heng.
Based on your reading of Howard Zinn’s “The Power and the Glory: Myths of American Exceptionalism,” write an essay discussing the similarities or differences between Graham Greene’s understanding of the paradox of innocence and Zinn’s notion of American Exceptionalism. Would Zinn agree with Graham Greene’s understanding of the danger of innocence, that it is “like a dumb leper, wondering the world without his bell, meaning no harm”? In your response, you may want to discuss one or more of the historical examples Zinn uses to support his analysis of the history of the use of violent means to achieve benevolent ends.
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