Pyle asks Fowler if he would like to spend the whole evening together, as Phuong will be at the cinema. Fowler tells him that he has an engagement at the Majestic theater and won’t be able to meet before 9:00. Pyle agrees to the original plan and leaves for the Legation, explaining to Fowler that he is afraid of getting caught. Fowler tells Pyle that if he gets held up and cannot make dinner, he should come to his apartment after 10:00.


This section of the novel represents a significant turning point in Fowler’s involvement n the novel’s present time, Fowler obstructs justice by lying to Vigot, whereas on the day of Pyle’s death, Fowler colludes with Mr. Heng and sets the assassination in motion. On many occasions in the novel thus far, Fowler has faced challenges to his self-image as a neutral observer. And yet, every time such a challenge has presented itself, he has convinced himself that he can still escape direct involvement. However, the final conversation Fowler has with Vigot begins to dispel this conviction. When Vigot asserts that criminals tend to confess because they want to see themselves without deception, he draws attention to Fowler’s inability to see himself objectively. Vigot knows that Fowler met with Pyle that day, and he has the evidence to prove it. Although Fowler cannot summon the courage to confess to Vigot, his sense of guilt foreshadows the coming revelation of the instrumental role he played in orchestrating the assassination.

Fowler’s sense of guilt saturates his conversation with Vigot. The most dramatic example comes when Vigot spares the life of a fly, brushing it away instead of slapping it, as Fowler himself would have done. This act reminds Fowler of Dominguez, who also literally would never hurt a fly. Vigot’s casual display of compassion has such a powerful effect on Fowler because it represents a sense of empathy that he himself lacks. Fowler feels this way not simply because he knows he would have swatted the fly e feels this way because, when faced with the choice of whether to spare Pyle’s life, he chose not to. Horrified, and weighing the living fly against the dead Pyle, Fowler retreats momentarily to an empty room to calm himself. Importantly, Fowler’s guilt pertains not only to his involvement with Pyle’s death, but also to his obstruction of Vigot’s investigation. In comparing Vigot to a poet whose poem he has carelessly sabotaged, Fowler recognizes that he has interfered in another man’s work. Like an unfinished poem, Vigot’s investigation remains incomplete.

The verses Fowler chooses to read to Pyle come from Arthur Hugh Clough’s poem, “As I Sat At the Café.” The speaker of this poem delights in his wealth and adopts an arrogant tone, looking down on those of lesser means. Like much of Clough’s work, this poem uses humor to address the poet’s despair about social injustice. The poem’s irony makes it an appropriate choice for Fowler, who makes similar use of humor to cover his cynicism and sadness. In context, Fowler’s quotation is both insulting and ominous. Fowler seems to identify Pyle with the poem’s speaker, who does not take full responsibility for the damage he causes. In saying that he can simply pay forthe damage, the speaker devalues the suffering of the he has hit. Likewise, by claiming to have dealt “severely” with General Thé, Pyle atones for the bombing without taking real responsibility for the individuals injured in the explosion. Both Pyle and the speaker appear morally deficient. At the same time that Fowler uses this poem to reprimand Pyle, the act of reading initiates the plan to kill Pyle, making Fowler’s choice

Pyle’s talkativeness during his final conversation with Fowler provides yet another form of foreshadowing, albeit a very subtle one. For one thing, Pyle is not characteristically chatty. Although this could simply indicate a particularly friendly mood, it might also point to a degree of nervousness. Indeed, even though the conversation between the two men seems unusually civil, Pyle’s civility may in fact be motivated by fear and the need for a friend and ally. Pyle himself suggests this when he confesses to Fowler that he feels . For another thing, Pyle’s uncharacteristic gregariousness serves as a reference to the grim joke invoked by the title of the novel: the only quiet American is a dead American. Despite generally being a person, Pyle’s interventions have made a great deal of noise (i.e., the explosion in the Place Garnier). Thus, Pyle’s sudden chattiness symbolizes something that must be silenced.