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.