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Pyle comes to Fowler’s aid, asking if he’s hurt. Fowler tries to get up and realizes that his leg has been wounded in the blast. There is another explosion in the tower. Fowler thinks about crawling toward the paddy field, his pain stops him. He hears crying sounds, and he wonders if they are coming from the tower guards. Fowler tells Pyle that he thinks he’s broken his left leg. He instructs the American to leave him and not to be but Pyle forces Fowler to get up and move into the wet paddy field.
With his leg injured, Fowler reflects that if he faints he will drown. The two men hear a Viet Minh sentry nearby. Fowler sneezes, and at the same moment gunfire breaks out overhead, as the sentry shoots into the rice stalks. Fowler submerges. When the shooting is over and he resurfaces, they hear Fowler’s car explode
Fowler wants to get out of the cold water and lie down on the road. Pyle suggests waiting. Fowler tells Pyle that he should have left him. Pyle confesses that he wouldn’t have been able to face Phuong had he done that, and Fowler asserts that if he were dead, Pyle could have her. Fowler tells Pyle that he would have left him for dead were the situation reversed.
Pyle helps Fowler to the edge of the bank near the road and then goes off through the rice paddy in search of a patrol or another watchtower. Now alone, Fowler once again hears the crying he’d heard before, and he responsible for the sufferer’s pain. He tries to move toward the sound, but he faints from the pain in his leg. He wakes up to a flashlight in his eyes. Pyle has returned, and the men who accompany him inform Fowler that the man in the watchtower is dead. This news brings Fowler relief. The men inject morphine into his leg.
In the first section of 3, Fowler returns to his apartment on the rue Catinat after a stay in the Legion Hospital near Tanyin. He lost his key somewhere in the tower or the rice field, but Phuong is there to let him in.Two communications came for Fowler while he was away. The first is a telegram from his agency containing a new assignment. The second is the long-awaited response from Helen. Fowler opens the letter from Helen and wonders to himself whether or not he will tell Phuong the truth about what it contains.
In her letter, Helen reflects on Fowler’s history of falling in love with women and then leaving them. She speculates that he wrote to her fully expecting an unfavorable reply, and that this would allow him to tell himself that he had at least tried. Helen then asks Fowler if he would actually marry Phuong if she agreed to divorce him. Fowler grows nauseous and stops reading. He feels hurt by her evident pain, and he contemplates how much agony the desire to possess another person can cause. Phuong asks Fowler if Helen has agreed to divorce him, and Fowler tells her that Helen’s answer is not yet clear. Privately, Fowler then chides himself for his false pride in being a reporter who disengaged. He thinks that actual war is kinder than the kind of conflict he has with his wife. Fowler resumes reading, and Helen asserts that she will not grant him a divorce.
Fowler puts the letter down without reading the final page, and Phuong asks what Helen decided. He tells her that she has not yet made up her mind. Phuong notices Fowler’s disappointed tone and tries to cheer him up by remaining optimistic. After smoking four pipes, Fowler revises his story, telling Phuong that Helen was consulting a lawyer and . Phuong goes out and purchases him three silk scarves.
That evening, Fowler writes a letter to Pyle explaining that he has received a letter from his wife, who has agreed to divorce him. He informs Pyle that he no longer needs to about Phuong. Fowler asks Phuong to go to the hotel and send the letter. He reflects on his relief that she won’t leave him before he departs from Vietnam.
This scene showcases that Fowler’s preoccupation with death is closely linked to his profound fear of death. When Fowler senses that his wounded leg might cause him to drown in the paddy, he expresses . This fear plays out in real time when the Viet Minh sentry opens fire. Instead of letting himself be killed, Fowler’s instincts take over and he saves himself. In a moment of self-criticism, Fowler compares himself to The logic of this comparison is strange and disturbing. Presumably, a woman who trades consensual intercourse for something as violent as rape does so to avoid real intimacyFor Fowler, the illogic of choosing the pain of life over the release of death is akin to the illogic of choosing rape over loving intimacy. Though the gendering of this comparison seems surprising, it amplifies Fowler’s feeling of powerlessness. His unconscious instinct to save himself undermines his conscious desire to die, and he sees this as a form of emasculation.
Whereas Fowler wishes passively to submit to death, Pyle feels the need actively to intervene and change the course of events. Fowler sees Pyle’s rush to action as characteristically American. He also interprets Pyle’s actions as being all for show, as if he has assumed the role of a hero in an imaginary war movie. Pyle’s heroism in this scene is reminiscent of the dangerous solo journey he took up the river to Phat Diem. Just as Fowler had judged the earlier journey as being inappropriate and ill-conceived, here again he criticizes Pyle’s grand gesture. Furthermore, just as Pyle journeyed to Phat Diem to pursue his love of Phuong, Fowler deduces that here, too, he acts the hero and saves only to impress Phuong and win her heart. Fowler responds to this realization not with anger but with jealousy. His jealousy inspires him to insult Pyle by telling him that, had their roles been reversed, he would have left him to die. The irony of Fowler’s statement is potent, as it is motivated by emotions rather than his commitment to neutrality.
The events at the watchtower represent a turning point in the novel, setting the stage for more violence, both physical violence and, especially, emotional violence. Emotional violence begins to proliferate already in 3, section I. For instance, when Fowler reads the letter from Helen in which she rejects his request for a divorce, he thinks to himself that the protracted conflict between them is worse than actual warfare. Whereas the physical violence of war is out in the open and hence straightforward, the psychological battle that plays out between him and his wife lies beneath the surface and hence proves more manipulative. And yet, despite the seriousness of this comparison, Fowler turns around and tells two fateful lies meant to manipulate. First, Fowler lies to Phuong about the contents of Helen’s letter to prevent her from leaving him. Second, he lies Pyle to keep him away from Phuong. Both lies are examples of emotional violence, and they ultimately lead to Phuong abandoning him for Pyle.