The first chapter of the novel The Ugly American by Eugene Burdick and William J. Lederer starts with Louis Sears, the American Ambassador of Sarkhan, looking through “a Red paper”, called Sarkhan Eastern Star (11). Sears is angry about the cartoon in the newspaper since it depicts a man who is supposed to be an abstract American but, as Louis says, “too much like me to be an accident” (Burdick and Lederer 11). At the same time, the embassy’s press attaché informs Sears that the American milkman has been beaten and abandoned at the embassy stairs for seducing someone’s daughter. However, when the story about the milkman is told, readers find out that he has been framed and done nothing like seducing someone. On the contrary, he tried to stop a man who firstly wanted to poison his milk to prove people that Americans were not worthy of trust, and when he failed to do that, he publicly accused the milkman of adding aphrodisiac to products. As the consequence, buyers beat the milkman. As for the ambassador, since he was offended because of the paper, Prince Ngong decided to print a flattering cartoon about him in the next issue but only because he did not want to lose American financial support.
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Such citation as “a Red paper” (as well as the name of this paper) helps readers to understand that the story is partly about Communism (Burdick and Lederer 11). Since the US is also involved, the events take place during the Cold War. Besides, the story is set in the fictional Asian country, and ambassador knows nothing about the local culture, does not speak Sarkhanese, disrespects natives and says that they are “damned little monkeys” (Burdick and Lederer 13). All of these short citations and details help to understand what events the authors are describing.
Even though the events take place in the fictional country of Asia, the historical context the authors are telling about is real. The majority of the characters are also real, but the names are withheld. During the times of the Cold War, the United States had a rather strange foreign policy. They sent the US diplomatic corps to the countries abroad to win their sympathy. That was unsuccessful since people who was sent for the task did not know the local language, as well as the culture, religion, or traditions of the country they were sent to. That is why they failed to win the sympathy, and the Soviet Union usually succeeded in that task.
Burdick, Eugene and William J. Lederer. The Ugly American. New York, New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1999. Print.