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Reading the discussion board thus far–which has been an interesting exploration of the character of Fowler’s character, if you will–I was struck by the fact that the question of contamination led to the question of authenticity. This was excellent. Authenticity, as many of you have brought out in your comments, has to do with truth and of something that is also verifiable (or else, let’s say factual).
Let’s explore this a bit more, and let’s explore another dimension at play in what links contamination and authenticity. What at bottom is at play between the two if not the problem of knowledge? In other words, are we not witnessing the characters struggling in their own ways to know the truth–whatever, for them, the truth may be? Does not, perhaps, the lack of knowing for sure (for example, Fowler’s lack of knowing the extent of the truth about Pyle’s involvement in the plastics scheme) work to produce, over and over again, a lack or break in knowledge as the very basis of their identities?
Rather than think about the ways the characters in the novel are exemplifying this or that meaning of authenticity or contamination, this or that definition of postmodern or postcolonial, and so forth, let’s consider the ways the characters are themselves forms of ambivalence that pivot of lacks in knowing. In other words, do we not perhaps have notions of contamination or authenticity, but rather forms of not-knowing?
Last week we discussed colonialism and Post-colonialism. As some mentioned through the discussion Pyle symbolizes colonialism while Fowler symbolizes post-colonialism. In the second half of The Quiet American, we see Fowler being unable to alleviate his guilt in having a part in Pyle’s death. Could this be the reason why Greene made him the narrator of this novel?
In “The White Inuit Speaks” Brydon writes, “post-colonial theorists embrace hybridity and heterogeneity as the characteristic post-colonial mode, some native writers resist what they see as a violating appropriation to insist on their ownership of their stories and their exclusive claim to an authenticity that should not be ventriloquized or parodied” (140).
This quote supports why many believe Fowler to be an unreliable narrator. Fowler takes ownership of his own narrative by telling it the way he wants it to be told and when it should be told. He is a complex character in the novel first showing signs of being disengaged and not too troublesome but its clear by the end of the novel hat Greene didn’t want the readers to see how dark he actually is at first.
Brydon also discusses this concept of ‘contamination’. She says, “…descendants of settlers and immigrants represent at best a contaminated post-coloniality, conforms to this post-modernist model. To challenge it… is fraught with difficulties because authenticity has also been used by colonial peoples in their struggles to regain power over their own lives” (140).
I believe Fowler is a ‘contaminated’ character based on the following: the dynamic between him and Pyle that eventually led to the death of Pyle. We see in the novel that he has no identity but the one provided with his career choice. We see his struggle throughout the novel to stay disengaged, we his infatuation with death and his fear of loneliness. All these things drove him to be more engaged and to go to great lengths to get Phuong. Fowler has struggled to gain control of his own life through manipulation and lies all these things would classify him as contaminated.
For this weeks discussion, I wanted to know what examples in the novel do you see the concept of ‘contamination’ as described by Brydon? What did you think of Brydon’s concept of ambivalence? Do you think Fowler is a contaminated character too? Why or why not?
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