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Fowler gets back to his regular daily life. His assistant, Dominguez, has fallen ill, and he goes to the hospital to visit him. Dominguez explains that a Chinese contact of his, Mr. Chou, has an important story. He writes down the address for Mr. Chou’s warehouse in Cholon. Dominguez does not give Fowler any details; he says only that something strange has happened. He also tells Fowler that he overhead Pyle briefing some visiting congressmen, speaking of a need for a Third Force in Vietnam that is not affected by communism or colonialism. Pyle called this Third Force “national democracy.”
That evening, Fowler drives to the Quai Mytho in Cholon, where he tracks down Mr. Chou’s warehouse. He arrives to find a whole family sitting in a big, junk-filled room. Fowler asks after Mr. Chou, and two women shake their heads. After drinking a cup of tea and having no luck communicating with the family in either English or French, a emaciated Chinese man enters the room Mr. Chou. Fowler explains that Dominguez sent him, but Mr. Chou does not remember who Dominguez is. A young man dressed in European attire enters. The newcomer introduces himself to Fowler as Mr. Heng, Mr. Chou’s manager. Fowler says that he has come to speak with Mr. Chou, and Mr. Heng explains that Mr. Chou has a bad memory. He offers Fowler more tea, and then invites him down to the warehouse to talk further.
In the warehouse, Mr. Heng shows Fowler an iron drum and draws his attention to the trademark on its bottom “Diolaction.” He explains that he picked up two of these drums at a garage owned by a man named Mr. Muoi, who has connections with General Thé. Fowler expresses his confusion, but Mr. Heng proceeds, showing him a long, concave metal object and telling him it’s a mold. Mr. Heng explains that Diolaction is an American trademark and that an associate of Mr. Muoi came to the warehouse to retrieve the drums and the mold, which had been mistakenly thrown away as junk. At the time, Mr. Heng claimed that he could not find the mold, but he let the man have one of the drums. Later that day, Mr. Muoi himself went to the American Legation and asked for Pyle.
Fowler acts nonplussed at the implied connection between Pyle and General Thé. Mr. Heng pleads with Fowler to uphold British neutrality in the conflict and be “fair to all of us,” by which he means the communists. Fowler asks what Diolaction is, and Mr. Heng reveals that it’s an American plastic. Fowler remains unsure what the mold is for, but Mr. Heng asks him to remember what he has seen in case he ever wishes to write about it.
One morning, Fowler wakes up to Pyle pounding on his door. The two men have not seen each other since the events at the watchtower. Pyle has come with Phuong. Fowler invites them in and asks Pyle if he got his letter. assents and tells Fowler that the letter was Pyle explains that he knows Fowler’s been recalled to England. He also explains that Phuong knows he lied about Helen’s letterher sister translated it for her.
Pyle feels deeply upset on Phuong’s behalf and tells Fowler that she will not be able to love him now. Phuong goes into the other room, and as she begins to page through a photographic retrospective of the British queen’s life, Fowler silently chides Pyle’s simple-mindedness. Fowler suggests that Pyle may now pursue Phuong without any reservations.
Fowler also implies that he knows about Pyle’s involvement with plastics. Pyle looks puzzled. He then reaffirms to Fowler that he wants to give Phuong a good life. When Fowler asserts that Phuong can decide by herself, Pyle calls her a child. Fowler rejects this characterization and, fed up, asks Pyle to leave. Pyle tells Phuong that Fowler has cheated her, but she doesn’t understand his English.
Fowler’s visit to Mr. Chou’s warehouse brings the political dimensions of Pyle’s activity into the foreground. As the nature of Pyle’s behind-the-scenes involvement in regional concerns starts to become clear, this information also intensifies the discordant relationship between Fowler and Pyle. Until this point in the novel, Fowler has mostly taken issue with Pyle on a more personal level, rejecting his American arrogance and his intrusion into Fowler’s personal affairs. Following the meeting with Mr. Heng, however, Fowler begins to piece together Pyle’s involvement with General Thé’s militant faction of nationalists. Although Fowler has frequently thought about the danger of his growing concern about Pyle’s activities finally motivates him to confront the American. Fowler voices his concern obliquely when he tells Pyle By this Fowler means that Pyle’s unfailingly good intentions cut him off from understanding how other humans think and feel. Fowler implies that Pyle’s naïveté regarding others makes him susceptible to getting involved in the wrong thing for the right reasons.
As the political rift between Fowler and Pyle opens further, so too does the personal rift relating to Phuong. In this scene, Pyle has come to confront Fowler regarding his lies about Helen’s letter. This betrayal, Pyle asserts, spells the end of Phuong’s love for Fowler. But Fowler rejects Pyle’s assumption that Phuong is capable of in the sense that he means it. According to Fowler, love is a foreign concept in this part of the world. ove is a form of romantic self-delusion, and Fowler implies that Phuong and her fellow Vietnamese do not suffer from such delusions. In saying this, Fowler indicates that any decision Phuong makeswhether to stay with him or leave with Pylewill be based on pragmatic considerations about her future. If she breaks with Fowler, it will be because she realizes that he will never be able to marry her, not because he broke her heart.
At the same time as Fowler claims that Phuong is not emotionally invested in a sentimental feeling like love, he also recognizes that his own characterization of Phuong may be off the mark. Take, for example, when Pyle calls Phuong a child and Fowler staunchly defends her against the comparison. Fowler insists that Phuong is tough as nails. She will suffer the challenges and pains of life like everyone else, but she will not submit to the existential burden of Fowler is very different in this regard. He finds himself in a constant state of existential worry and self-questioning. Indeed, once Fowler finishes his defense of Phuong, he immediately begins to question his own characterization of his mistress. Echoing thoughts that he had earlier in the novelFowler reminds himself that it is impossible to really know another person
If neither man fully understands Phuong, it is for sociocultural reasons as well as for reasons of language. Phuong’s limited grasp of French and her complete lack of English prevent her from expressing herself fully, rendering her relatively silent. This is the case in both literal and figurative senses. In the literal sense, Phuong does not speak very often in the novel. When she does speak, she usually talks about elementary subjects. Although this makes her appear shallow, the reader can infer that this is at least partly a side effect of a limited vocabulary. In the figurative sense, because Phuong cannot express herself fully, she only ever remains a partially realized character.