An important symbol of machismo (an exaggerated sense of manliness and domination) is the helmet that the Lieutenant offers Thomas Fowler when he travels to Phat Diem, a dangerous war zone. Fowler confirms his machismo—and his indifference to his own life—by turning down this important protection. Later, Alden Pyle accepts the helmet, seemingly without any second thoughts. The symbolism is clear enough: Pyle is young, innocent, and optimistic—thus, he wants to live. Fowler is older, more experienced, and comes bearing more suffering. As a result, he’s less interested in life itself, and therefore has little drive to continue to survive.
The Helmet Symbol Timeline in The Quiet American
The timeline below shows where the symbol The Helmet appears in The Quiet American. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 4, Section 1
...join them as they proceed with “a very small affair.” The Lieutenant offers Fowler his helmet, but Fowler refuses. The Lieutenant leads him, along with the troops, to a large canal,... (full context)
...have provided him. He is then surprised to find Pyle standing before him, wearing a helmet. Pyle explains than “somebody” lent him the helmet—Fowler points out that Pyle is very well... (full context)