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Comparisonof Graham Greene and Reinhold Niebuhr
Intheir books, the authors present Graham Greene and Reinhold Niebuhrinsights of understanding the American history. Their views helpcreate a deeper understanding of America’s foreign policy from ahistorical perspective. However the two authors present a sharpcontrast on idealism, variety of human virtues and the extent ofpower.
BothGreeneand Niebuhrchallenge the notion that man can master his own destiny. Niebuhrattributes this notion to the continued failure by both democrats andcommunists who believe that overthrowing power would secure freedom.He warns that America would not succeed unless there such notions areput at bay as legitimate virtues and values exist in the world. Thisis through interactions in unpredictable ways and shedding thethoughts of being able to control America’s destiny. He furtherdefends this with a fact that human beings are not able and can nevermaster history because they are part of its creation (Reinhold,p200). He gives hope to a bright destiny through continued practiceof the virtue of humility
Bothwriters use similar styles of irony to try and bring out theirarguments. In the quiet American, Phuong spent the night with Fowlerafter finding out that her lover was dead. Fowler woke up in themiddle of the night to find his hand up between her legs. He wonderedout loudly whether he was the only one who actually really cared forPyle. This line of thought was ironic as he actually the one who hadevoked Pyle’s death. Moreover, he was already benefiting from thatact as he had secured Phuong by his side. Greene makes the readerunderstand that his deeds were haunting him because of the trust hehad from Phuong. He was indeed guilty because he was the one who hadsecured Pyle’s murder (Graham, p8).
Incontrast, the beginning of the chapter Niebuhr examines thedifficulties the Americans faced in facing up to the threats ofcommunism. He offers the liberals with a plan of viability. Hedescribes America that is ironically at its greatest strength but isincapable of applying its desires and visions. He traces the problemof the decline of the Christian precepts of ambition as the man’sgreatest virtue. He clearly points out that all evil can be managedas it as a result of ineffective social structures or ignorance. Heconcludes the chapter by indicating that the American optimism isstructured by the convectional belief in the goodness of all men andthe responsibility of very individual in shaping own destiny(Reinhold, p72).
Green’stouches on the element of innocence in the beginning of the book.This has been displayed by Fowler’s sarcastic suggestion ofsearching for evidence of murder from Pyle’s dog’s paws. However,both vigor and he laugh off this suggestion indicating their directdismissal. However Vogot later does exactly that later when he foundthe dead dog. He finds out evidence that link up Fowler to the murderof Pyle. He does not totally make the arrest because he could nottotally prove that accusation. This in essence suggested the burningdesire of confession by Fowler in his subconscious mind. He displayeda pretentious kind of innocence that was just clearly deceiving(Graham, p15).
Niebuhralso brings to light the America’s pretentiousness of innocence. Hedisplays that the mere existence of mankind was because he was givena second chance and a fresh start by God. He notes that the Americansguaranteed their freedom through the achievement of prosperity andhence avoided prejudice of the feudal Europe. He further describesthe wrong notion in the market place of labeling self-interest as“harmless”. He observes that this myth coupled by the perceivedinnocence exists in America’s foreign affairs. He demonstrates theeffects of such application in the America’s history andparticipation of the First World War. America was reluctant todisplay its responsibility in this world event. He warns of theobvious displays of innocence and separation that makes America illprepared to deal with the realities of the world (Reinhold, p50).
Greene,Graham. QuietAmerican.Chicago. University of Chicago Press. 2010. Print
Niebuhr,Reinhold. Ironyof American People.London. Randon House. 2010. Print