The Quiet American

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Part Two, Chapter 3, Sections II–III

Summary Part Two, Chapter 3, Sections II–III


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.