Study Guide

The Quiet American Mortality

By Graham Greene


Everything passes away: love, heath, life, Pixar's consistent awesomeness—only death is permanent. It's the real thing. So believes Thomas Fowler, the narrator of Graham Greene's The Quiet American. Death is a constant presence in the novel. It's always with you. Its signs cannot be escaped and they're ignored at your peril. For Fowler, death extends beyond the bombs and bullets of war: it's there in every loss. Because everything can be lost, everything can die. Death gives everything its meaning. Talk about an existentialist perspective. Sounds like someone's been reading some Heidegger lately.

Questions About Mortality

  1. Why do you think Fowler came east to die?
  2. If death is the permanent thing, as Fowler says, why does he feel guilty for his role in Pyle's death?
  3. How are love and death similar in the novel? 
  4. How does Fowler's view of death compare to that of Shakespeare's Hamlet?

Chew on This

Fowler sees death as permanent because he doesn't believe in God.

Fowler doesn't believe in God because he sees death as permanent.