The unbridgeable gaps between cultures is for Graham Greene an obvious, indelible, and consequential fact of life, although one often camouflaged by platitudes and ignorance. Greene’s interest lies less with individual characters than with the cultural types they represent. In each novel examined in this paper, the cultural gap exists at two levels: between two prototypical Westerners; and between the Westerners and their rather exotic environment. The Quiet American pits the culture of the naïve, can-do American (Pyle) against that of the seen-it-all, cynical Brit (Fowler), with each misunderstanding that of inscrutable Vietnam (Phoung). The Comedians features two Brits representing differing cultures, one world weary (Brown) and the other bogus blow-hard-turned-hero (Jones); they also are set off from the corrupt and idealistic Haitians they encounter living under the brutal and lawless rule of Papa Doc Duvalier. Finally, The Third Man sees one American (Lime) representing the culture of amoral greed and another (Martins) that of common decency; the setting, bombed out, postwar Vienna, provides opportunities for both. Each pair of Westerners, though superficially friendly, at least at first, embodies clashing cultures that inhibit mutual understanding and empathy. Eventually, after a great deal of suffering, nearly all by third parties, the Westerners begin to grasp this, as the beliefs and opinions that barricaded them against reality and gave them a sense of intellectual security crumble before the onslaught of events.
"Graham Greene and Bridges across Cultures,"
Graham Greene Studies: Vol. 2
, Article 11.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.northgeorgia.edu/ggs/vol2/iss1/11