The Quiet American

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York Harding Character Analysis

An influential intellectual and author of The Role of the West, a book idolized by Alden Pyle. York Harding believes that the proper “path” for Third World Countries must be neither Communism nor colonialism, but rather a mysterious Third Force (yet it’s never explained what form this “Force” takes). Harding plays a huge role in compelling Pyle to use violence to enact political change—indeed, Fowler blames Harding for Pyle’s death.

York Harding Quotes in The Quiet American

The The Quiet American quotes below are all either spoken by York Harding or refer to York Harding . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Vietnam and the West Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Books edition of The Quiet American published in 2004.
Part 1, Chapter 2, Section 1 Quotes

I liked his loyalty to Harding—whoever Harding was. It was a change from the denigrations of the Pressmen and their immature cynicism. I said, “Have another bottle of beer and I’ll try to give you an idea of things.”

Related Characters: Thomas Fowler (speaker), Alden Pyle , York Harding
Related Symbols: The Role of the West
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

This passage jumps back in time to when Fowler and Pyle first meet, and Fowler gets a sense for Alden Pyle's intellectual curiosity. Pyle is an impressionable reader--as we'll see later on, his favorite author is Harding, an intellectual who inspires him to use violence to control the people of Vietnam. At first, Fowler is intrigued by the mere fact that Pyle is reading--he considers Pyle's behavior a welcome contrast from the usual boorishness and cynicism Fowler notices among many foreigners in Vietnam.

It's worth noting that Fowler's admiration for Pyle has a paternal flavor--Fowler seems to see something of his younger self in Pyle (it's literature, after all, that links Fowler and Pyle together: Fowler is a writer and Pyle is a reader). Greene will revisit the paternal bond between Fowler and Pyle (who's young enough to be Fowler's son) many times.

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Part 4, Chapter 1 Quotes

“No. I’m not so stupid. One doesn’t take one’s enemy’s book as a souvenir. There it is on your shelf. The Rôle of the West. Who is this York Harding?” “He’s the man you are looking for, Vigot. He killed Pyle—at long range.”

Related Characters: Thomas Fowler (speaker), Vigot (speaker), Alden Pyle , York Harding
Related Symbols: The Role of the West
Page Number: 159
Explanation and Analysis:

After the death of Alden Pyle, Fowler crosses paths with Vigot, the police inspector who’s been tasked with investigating Pyle’s death. Vigot notices a copy of The Role of the West, Pyle’s favorite book, in Fowler’s home. When he asks Fowler about the book, Fowler claims that it was York Harding (the author) who truly killed Pyle.

Fowler’s remarks are both totally self-serving and totally accurate. Fowler is himself responsible for Pyle’s death—terrified by Pyle’s politics and jealous of his romantic success with Phuong, Fowler allowed Pyle to be murdered. By blaming Harding for Pyle’s death, Fowler is cynically trying to absolve himself of guilt. But in another sense, Fowler is right to blame Harding. Pyle lived his adult life according to a set of lofty, unrealistic ideals. In so doing, he entered into a world of violence and bloodshed, in which he wasn’t equipped to last very long--and in which he did great harm.

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York Harding Character Timeline in The Quiet American

The timeline below shows where the character York Harding appears in The Quiet American. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 2, Section 1
Vietnam and the West Theme Icon
Impartiality and Action Theme Icon
Friendship, Loyalty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
...bar in Saigon on that first day Fowler and Pyle met, Pyle speaks highly of York Harding , a political theorist whom Fowler has never heard of. Pyle finds Harding’s books to... (full context)
Vietnam and the West Theme Icon
Impartiality and Action Theme Icon
Inevitability of Death Theme Icon
Friendship, Loyalty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Provoked by the idea of the Caodaists fighting against both sides, Pyle tells Fowler that York Harding wrote that the East needs a “Third Force,” but does not expand on this idea.... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 2, Section 2
Vietnam and the West Theme Icon
Impartiality and Action Theme Icon
Friendship, Loyalty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
...of detective work with a war on. Fowler looks at Pyle’s bookshelf, mostly filled with York Harding ’s books, reports, and other informational texts. Fowler takes one of the Harding books, The... (full context)
Vietnam and the West Theme Icon
Impartiality and Action Theme Icon
...calls the Attaché’s Western accent “the voice of Democracy,” which Fowler says sounds like a York Harding title. The Attaché then expresses his sadness about Pyle’s death and says he knew Pyle’s... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 2, Section 3
Vietnam and the West Theme Icon
Impartiality and Action Theme Icon
Friendship, Loyalty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
...fort by themselves, asks Pyle if they know they’re defending democracy, and sarcastically asks if York Harding could explain democracy to them. Pyle is unperturbed by Fowler’s sarcasm, and tells him that... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 3, Section 2
Vietnam and the West Theme Icon
Impartiality and Action Theme Icon
Friendship, Loyalty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
...Pyle has been meeting local politicians and lecturing them on the writings of his beloved York Harding , especially Harding’s argument that Vietnam must embrace the “Third Force”—neither Communism nor colonialism. (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 3, Section 3
Impartiality and Action Theme Icon
Friendship, Loyalty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Romance and Sex Theme Icon
...wealth, security, affection, etc. Fowler dismissively tells Pyle to go to his “Third Force and York Harding and plastics.” Looking back, Fowler thinks, Pyle carried out these instructions “to the letter.” (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 2, Section 1
Vietnam and the West Theme Icon
Impartiality and Action Theme Icon
Friendship, Loyalty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
...to leave, Fowler shakes his hand and tells him not to trust too much in York Harding . He warns Pyle that General Thé doesn’t represent the Third Force Harding discusses—on the... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 2, Section 2
Vietnam and the West Theme Icon
Impartiality and Action Theme Icon
Inevitability of Death Theme Icon
Friendship, Loyalty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Romance and Sex Theme Icon
Fowler continues to berate Pyle for his actions. Because Pyle has believed in York Harding and the Third Force, he’s enabled a dangerous thug, General Thé, who clearly has no... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 1
Vietnam and the West Theme Icon
Impartiality and Action Theme Icon
Inevitability of Death Theme Icon
Friendship, Loyalty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Romance and Sex Theme Icon
...Vigot says that he doesn’t think Fowler was involved, but points to a copy of York Harding ’s book, The Role of the West, lying on Fowler’s bookshelf. Fowler nods darkly, and... (full context)