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The Quiet American

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Summary

Part Three, Chapter 1, Sections III–V

Summary Part Three, Chapter 1, Sections III–V

Summary

Fowler goes to the American Legation in search of Pyle, but he is not there. Instead, Fowler finds Joe, the economic attaché, and Miss Hei, who recently started working in the office. Joe explains that Pyle must be at home. Fowler makes a scene, informing Joe that Pyle is sleeping with Phuong and that his typist, Miss Hei, had arranged it. Joe defends Pyle and cautions Fowler against making further trouble. After exchanging curt words, Fowler leaves the office. He locks himself in the Legation’s air-conditioned lavatory and cries.

Leaving his affairs in the hands of Dominguez, Fowler travels north to report on the fighting in Haiphong. Orders from Hanoi state that correspondents are only allowed to go on “horizontal” raids, which involve planes flying above the range of machine-gun fire. Fowler, however, is invited to join a “vertical” raid on a B-26 bomber piloted by Captain Trouin, though he is forbidden from writing about the experience.

From the cramped interior of the bomber, Fowler observes the jungle scenery below. Fowler does not notice when the dive-bombing first begins, since the bombs fall away from the plane silently. After releasing the bombs, though, the guns engage and the plane drops suddenly and quickly. During the first dive, Fowler feels his everyday anxieties slip away. However, as the dive-bombing continues, he grows irritated. On the final bombing, the pilot takes the plane down toward a sampan (a flat-bottomed paddle boat) in a stream and fires on it. The small boat explodes, and the plane ascends to return to base. Captain Trouin takes a detour to show Fowler a beautiful view of the sunset.

Later than night, Trouin brings Fowler to an opium house. Fowler asks if the sampan had been dangerous, and Trouin explains that he has orders to shoot anything in sight, since potential dangers are everywhere. Trouin tells Fowler that napalm bombing is worse than what they did on that day’s raid. He describes the horror of watching the forest and people catch fire after dropping a napalm bomb. Trouin suddenly becomes upset, declaring that this is not a mere colonial war. He tells Fowler that the French are fighting this war for all of Europe. Fowler claims not to be involved in the war, but Trouin insists that someday he will be.

Trouin relates a story about the first time he went on a napalm raid and imagined that he was bombing his home village. He explains that he experiences a similar kind of guilt whenever he drops napalm. Otherwise, when he witnesses the atrocities that the Viet Minh perpetrate against their own people, he feels as though he’s defending Europe. After hearing Trouin describe the violence he’s witnessed, Fowler insists that this violence is why he does not get involved. But Trouin retorts that involvement is not just about reason or justice

Trouin encourages Fowler to employ a he has admired all night. Fowler takes the to his room, but she is wearing the same perfume as Phuong, and he cannot consummate the sexual act. He apologizes, and the woman attributes his sexual failure to opium.