The Quiet American

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The Quiet American Part 2, Chapter 3, Section 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
A number of weeks pass in Vietnam, and Fowler continues with his reporting. He knows that he is scheduled to leave Vietnam in April of the next year. At the same time, he is disappointed that his loyal assistant, Dominguez, has taken ill. Dominguez is instrumental in obtaining useful information for Fowler, and without his help, Fowler can’t do much to report on the status quo in Vietnam.
As the novel goes on, we get a better feeling for the scope of Fowler’s involvement in Vietnam. He can’t simply get stories, but instead relies on a network of informants. This reinforces how difficult it is to stay neutral in the midst of a war: Fowler has to rely on other people, and this means picking sides.
Themes
Vietnam and the West Theme Icon
Impartiality and Action Theme Icon
Friendship, Loyalty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Fowler visits Dominguez several times. On one particularly memorable visit, Dominguez, who’s become very sick now, tells Fowler that he has a story for him. Dominguez explains that he has a friend who owns a warehouse outside of the city. He also asks Fowler how much he knows about Pyle—Fowler replies that he knows that Pyle works for “Economic Mission,” and not much else. Dominguez explains that Pyle has been meeting local politicians and lecturing them on the writings of his beloved York Harding, especially Harding’s argument that Vietnam must embrace the “Third Force”—neither Communism nor colonialism.
Pyle has become bolder with his actions in Vietnam. before, he seemed satisfied to tell Fowler about York Harding, but now, Pyle is trying to spread Harding to the political leadership in Vietnam. It’s not clear what the “Third Force” in Vietnam will be, and perhaps this points to the fundamental naiveté of Pyle’s project: he’s working hard for something, but can’t say exactly what this something will be.
Themes
Vietnam and the West Theme Icon
Impartiality and Action Theme Icon
Friendship, Loyalty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Inspired by Dominguez’s information, Fowler goes to the warehouse in search of a “scoop.” The name of the man who owns the warehouse is Mr. Chou. Inside, Fowler finds Chou, a 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 to Fowler that he’s seen Pyle in touch with General Thé. Heng adds that he and Chou have been experimenting with plastic moulds—“not for toys”—on behalf of Pyle. They send the moulds to the warehouse of a Mr. Muoi for further processing. Though Fowler isn’t surprised to hear that Pyle knows Thé—it’s his job to make connections with the Vietnamese—he’s confused about why Pyle would be using plastics. Heng makes Fowler promise not to portray him and Chou in a negative light when he writes about them—he insists that he’s only doing his job.
In this important expository section, we learn that Pyle is actively using his plastic to create other things—while it’s not explained exactly what they are, we can imagine that they’re explosives, and suddenly Pyle’s idealistic naivete seems much more sinister. Heng and Chou are mysterious characters—much like Fowler, they seem neutral, selling their services to the highest bidder, uninterested in the details of what their products will be used to do. Also like Fowler, Heng and Chou seem highly aware of the importance (as well as the limitations) of publicity and information—they make an effort to control their image in whatever Fowler might write.
Themes
Vietnam and the West Theme Icon
Impartiality and Action Theme Icon
Friendship, Loyalty, and Betrayal Theme Icon