America as a country finds itself in the middle of global occurrencesthat require its intervention. However, the interventions aresometimes bloody, and they result in destructive wars. The limit ofAmerican goodness can be looked into through the accounts of authorswho lay emphasis on how the country becomes obliged to poke into thematters of other countries. The Quiet American by Graham Greene is apolitical novel detailing the war in Indochina and the role ofAmerica in the war. Greene speaks through a British reporter whofinds himself in a battleground. In his book, The Irony of AmericanHistory, Reinhold Niebuhr examines the unique challenges faced byAmerica in confronting the threat of communism. Also, they aimed toat providing the liberal countries with a viable plan for politicaldevelopment. He describes the state of America that is in itsgreatest strength but ironically, it does not have the will it hadduring its infancy.
In examining the American goodness, Niebuhr looks at the Americanpretense of innocence.
America believes it came into existence providentially so that Godcould benchmark a fresh start for humanity (Niebuhr 8). Itsphilosophy is therefore coined in the belief of the goodness of allmen and the power that is inherent in each to shape his destiny.Niebuhr says, “we are (according to our traditional theory) themost innocent nation on earth” (Niebuhr 9). However, this is notthe case when communism seems to take effect in the westerncountries. According to Niebuhr, America does not consider this asthe best way to reach political and economic maturity (Niebuhr 15).Its limits, therefore, becomes evident as it interferes through aforceful war to curtail communism, it is ironic that the countrycould not let individuals forge a path towards their destiny.
Greene shares similar sentiments with Niebuhr on the limit of ehAmerican goodness when the country resolves to interfere with theaffairs of another country. As Fowler says in the novel, “innocenceis like a dumb leper who has lost his bell, he means no harm. Youcannot blame them because they are always guiltless” (Greene 17). In describing the American goodness, Greene terms the country ascrassly materialistic and innocent with no interest in the affairs ofthe other people. However, the goodness reaches a limit fast with thewave of communism when the interference of America leads to massivebloodshed.
The two authors also present similar feelings about the goodness andfairness of the America political system. According to Niebuhr, theAmerican political system emanates from common sense rather thandogma (Niebuhr 21). Therefore, a laisez faire system allows people torepresent their views. Greene uses Fowler, who looks at the Americangirls as incapable of untidy passion, and he envies theirviciousness. They contrast with her Vietnamese girlfriend who showsno signs of self-interest. She is not autonomous, and she bows to hisdemands. She does not have the qualities of self-rule as seen in theAmerican girls (Greene 49). The autonomy of America is a limit fortheir goodness and innocence, and they can attack anyone whothreatens their independence.
However, use slightly different approach to representing the irony ofAmerican goodness. Greene looks the country from a silent point ofview and describes the countries pretense of being harmless. Niebuhruses the ironical approach whereby the country enforces itsideologies to other countries while holding on the value ofindividual rule.
Greene, Graham. TheQuiet American. New York: Random House, 2010. Print.
Niebuhr, Reinhold.The irony of American history. Chicago: University of ChicagoPress, 2010. Print.