Analysis

When Vigot quotes the work of the French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal, he does so to challenge Fowler’s belief that he can remain a fully disengaged observer. During their game of 421, Vigot invokes a famous passage outlines what has since become known as “Pascal’s Wager.” Pascal’s Wager states that every person makes a wager with his or her life as to whether or not God exists. Since human reason cannot prove God’s existence or nonexistence, both belief and disbelief are a gamble. The stakes of this gamble, however, are high. Vigot quotes: “If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing The point of Pascal’s thought experiment is that human actions have significant consequences, and yet humans do not have the capacity to understand these consequences fully. When Fowler attempts to subvert this conundrum, stating that the best action is not to wager at all, he misses the point Vigot is trying to make. That is, he fails to understand that no one can escape making this wager. In this sense, engagement is inevitable.

Fowler’s visit to Mr. Muoi’s garage proves significant not because of what he discovers there about the construction of the bicycle bombs, but because of how the experience further degrades his estimation of Pyle. This degradation happens very subtly during the scene in the empty office, and it relates to Pyle’s favored theory that a Third Force is necessary to destabilize the regional conflict between communism and colonialism. Fowler has rejected this theory before on the basis that it is grounded in abstract ideas rather than concrete facts. Here, Fowler constructs an alternative understanding of the Third Force, one that, surprisingly, he bases on the mess of objects that he finds strewn across the desk. In contrast to Pyle’s Fowler indicates that this incongruous jumble more aptly represents the real state of affairs Fowler’s revision of the Third Force concept is powerful because it emphasizes that nothing in real life is as pure or straightforward as it seems when presented as an oversimplified abstraction. Instead of a unified force like Pyle’s Fowler posits a meaningless hodgepodge of things, neither harmonious nor internally contradictory, and thus far more complex.

Fowler’s visit to Mr. Muoi’s garage also amplifies the Englishman’s sense of being an outsider. This sense becomes particularly acute when he considers all of the local people who live and work on the same street and who must know about the goings-on in Mr. Muoi’s garage. As Fowler recognizes, however, accessing what these individuals know would prove impossible for the colonial police, as they would never be able to gain their trust or enter their social circles. Fowler connects this example to the group of Vietnamese women who frequently sit on the landing in front of his apartment, where they observe the activities of the rue Catinat and gossip secretively. These reflections remind Fowler that, even in his adopted country, he remains an outsider. Given that his disdain for England leads him to feel like an outside in his home country as well, this suggests that Fowler lives in a kind of permanent exile, never quite at home.

Fowler’s growing sense of his own status impinges on his relationship with Phuong, and the way he treats her and thinks about her demonstrates once again that she is less of a character and more of a stand-in for foreign men’s emotional baggage. he would have to return to England and his wife. Fowler . In the weeks following their conflict over Fowler’s lies about Helen’s letter, Fowler admits to feeling as if Phuong . Here, Pyle becomes a target for Fowler’s hatred of America and everything it stands for.