The Quiet American

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Part Two, Chapter 2, Section III, continued

Summary Part Two, Chapter 2, Section III, continued


As their conversation continues, Fowler insists that average Vietnamese peasants are not concerned about defeating communism or helping democracy triumph. Instead, they want to ensure their own health and safety. Pyle retorts that Fowler should be more upset by French colonialism. According to Fowler, however, more dangerous than colonialism is liberalism, which he believes has infected all party politics with the desire to maintain a healthy conscience, regardless of the trouble that it causes. Pyle tells Fowler that he is as much of an intellectual as Harding, as evidenced by his concern with the importance of the individual Fowler refutes Pyle once again, claiming that the only person who treats a Vietnamese peasant in a paddy field like an individual is the local commissar (a communist party official).

As the night wears on, Pyle becomes cold and Fowler goes back to the car to retrieve a blanket. After he retrieves the blanket from the trunk of the car, there’s an explosion in the distance along with far-off screams. When Fowler returns to the tower and reaches the top of the ladder, he finds both Pyle and one of the guards looking at a Sten (a type of submachine gun) that is lying between them. Pyle tells Fowler that he doesn’t trust the guards. Soon thereafter, a patrol vehicle drives by. Pyle suggest flagging it down on its return pass, but there is a sudden explosion nearby that Fowler thinks might be a mine. The patrol doesn’t come back.

Fowler closes his eyes and imagines being somewhere else. He thinks about Phuong preparing his opium pipe and wonders if his wife has sent a response to his letter yet. To distract himself from the slow passing of time, Fowler asks Pyle what he’s thinking about. Pyle says he’s thinking about Phuong and what she might be doing. Fowler explains that she must have realized that he is staying the night in Tanyin, and he guesses that she is in his apartment reading Paris Match, a weekly French news magazine. Pyle asks Fowler where he met Phuong, and he explains that he met her when she danced at the Grand Monde. Pyle becomes distraught at this information, and Fowler clarifies that dancing is a respectable profession; Phuong was not a prostitute.

Pyle admits that he’s had little experience with women, and he asks Fowler what his deepest sexual experience was. describes watching a woman in a red dressing gown brush her hair in the early morning. When if this woman was Phuong, Fowler admits that she was a woman he had been with after he left his wife. Fowler tells Pyle that he was afraid of losing love, but now he simply fears losing Phuong. Pyle asks if Phuong loves him, but Fowler assures him that the Vietnamese don’t love in the same way

Pyle returns to their previous conversation, exclaiming that he is not a virgin. Fowler responds that a man can sleep with many women and still be a virgin. Pyle doesn’t understand what he means, and Fowler doesn’t explain. Instead, he tells Pyle that he no longer feels concerned with sex so much as old age and death. What he wants is not to be alone in his final decade, and he insists that he prefers loveless companionship to solitude. Pyle continues to see Fowler’s perspective as insulting to Phuong.

A loud noise from a megaphone interrupts the men’s conversation, and a voice calls out in Vietnamese. The voice seems to be telling the guards to give up the Europeans (Fowler thinks they were identified by his car). Afraid that one of the guards will shoot them, Pyle takes the Sten and covers Fowler, who climbs down from the watchtower. Fowler stops halfway down the ladder when he feels it move, as if someone is climbing up the ladder. In his fear, he imagines not a man but an animal climbing stealthily. Fowler jumps to the ground and twists his ankle. He then hears Pyle climbing down the ladder and realizes that he had caused the movement. Suddenly, a bazooka shell bursts. The tower explodes, and the blast throws Fowler .