The Quiet American

The Quiet American

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Mr. Heng Character Analysis

A Vietnamese businessman and manufacturer who helps Alden Pyle build plastic explosives, but also plays an important part in ordering Pyle’s death. Heng is seemingly amoral, and realistic about his position in Vietnam—he explains to Fowler that he sells his services to the highest bidder. Unlike Fowler, Heng believes that it’s impossible not to be engagé in Vietnam.

Mr. Heng Quotes in The Quiet American

The The Quiet American quotes below are all either spoken by Mr. Heng or refer to Mr. Heng . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Vietnam and the West Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Books edition of The Quiet American published in 2004.
Part 2, Chapter 3, Section 2 Quotes

Mr. Heng turned away. “I only want you to remember what you have seen,” he said, walking back in the shadows of the junk-pile. “Perhaps one day you will have a reason for writing about it. But you must not say you saw the drum here.” “Nor the mould?” I asked. “Particularly not the mould.”

Related Characters: Thomas Fowler (speaker), Mr. Heng (speaker)
Page Number: 120
Explanation and Analysis:

In this important section, Fowler finds evidence of military technology in a small factory, owned by Mr. Heng. By this point in the novel, Fowler has a suspicion that Pyle is involved in covert military activity in Vietnam. Mr. Heng's advice to Fowler is a classic example of a "Chekhov's Pistol"--a detail that's introduced early on in a work of literature and is clearly going to be important later on.

The passage conveys Fowler's status as a reporter and a recorder of information. Fowler is an active participant in the events of the novel, but he's also the character who remembers the novel's events--he writes a whole book about them, after all. Fowler has a unique burden: he has the challenging job of writing down Pyle's story, honoring his memory while also exposing his flaws. Here, for instance, Fowler provides early evidence that Pyle is a murderer--someone who's willing to use plastic explosives (made from Mr. Heng's mould) to kill innocent civilians.

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Mr. Heng Character Timeline in The Quiet American

The timeline below shows where the character Mr. Heng appears in The Quiet American. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 2, Chapter 3, Section 2
Vietnam and the West Theme Icon
Impartiality and Action Theme Icon
Friendship, Loyalty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
...well-dressed, sickly man. As Fowler introduces himself to Chou, another man, introducing himself as Mr. Heng, walks into the warehouse, which is covered in a fine white powder. Mr. Heng explains... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 3, Section 3
Impartiality and Action Theme Icon
Inevitability of Death Theme Icon
Friendship, Loyalty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Fowler, having just spoken with Heng and Chou, thinks about Pyle—he hasn’t seen him since Pyle saved his life. He’s irritated... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 1, Section 2
Vietnam and the West Theme Icon
Impartiality and Action Theme Icon
Inevitability of Death Theme Icon
Fowler notices Mr. Heng standing near the bicycles. When Fowler greets him, Heng, looking at his watch, advises Fowler... (full context)
Vietnam and the West Theme Icon
Impartiality and Action Theme Icon
Inevitability of Death Theme Icon
Friendship, Loyalty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
...Shortly after he finishes his story, Fowler goes to visit Mr. Moui, the man Mr. Heng had mentioned when Fowler visited his warehouse. (full context)
Vietnam and the West Theme Icon
Impartiality and Action Theme Icon
Friendship, Loyalty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Romance and Sex Theme Icon
...the machines there is a fine white powder, exactly like the powder Fowler noticed at Heng’s warehouse. Because there is no one in the warehouse, Fowler leaves and returns to his... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 2, Section 1
Impartiality and Action Theme Icon
Inevitability of Death Theme Icon
Friendship, Loyalty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Romance and Sex Theme Icon
...rue Catinat, Fowler walks to Mr. Chou’s warehouse. There, he finds Mr. Chou and Mr. Heng. He tells Heng, who understands more English, about the explosion, and insists that Pyle was... (full context)
Impartiality and Action Theme Icon
Inevitability of Death Theme Icon
Friendship, Loyalty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
In response to Fowler’s protests, Heng nods, and makes another suggestion: Fowler should invite Pyle to dinner at the Vieux Moulin,... (full context)
Impartiality and Action Theme Icon
Fowler seems to accept Heng’s advice. As he prepares to leave the warehouse, Heng tells him, “One has to take... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 2, Section 2
Impartiality and Action Theme Icon
Friendship, Loyalty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
...isolationists. Pyle continues talking about his family—and as he talks, Fowler contemplates warning him about Heng’s plot. He asks Pyle if he carries a gun, and Pyle says that he doesn’t. (full context)