The Quiet American

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The Quiet American Part 4, Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Part Four begins shortly after Pyle’s death. Fowler has given Phuong money to take her sister to the movies—it’s not explained why he’s done this, except that he wants them both “out of the way.”
Fowler still often treats Phuong like a child, just as Pyle did. Neither man seems to have much respect for as an individual.
Themes
Impartiality and Action Theme Icon
Inevitability of Death Theme Icon
Romance and Sex Theme Icon
Fowler meets with Vigot at 10 PM. He insists that he had nothing to do with Pyle’s death, and asks why Vigot thinks he was involved. Vigot says that he doesn’t think Fowler was involved, but points to a copy of York Harding’s book, The Role of the West, lying on Fowler’s bookshelf. Fowler nods darkly, and says that it was Harding who killed Pyle, “from a long range.” Harding, Fowler explains, is the kind of journalist who chooses a “big idea” and then twists reality to fit with his idea.
Even as Fowler criticizes York Harding for causing Pyle’s death, he falls into the same trap that Pyle often fell into. Just as Pyle used Harding as a way to justify his own bad behavior, Fowler is using Harding and Pyle’s flaws to make himself forget his own involvement in Pyle’s death—an involvement that Greene, we presume, will presently explain to us.
Themes
Vietnam and the West Theme Icon
Impartiality and Action Theme Icon
Inevitability of Death Theme Icon
Friendship, Loyalty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Romance and Sex Theme Icon
Vigot tells Fowler that Pyle was killed by a “rusty bayonet,”and Vigot can’t imagine that Fowler would use such a weapon. Nevertheless, he asks Fowler where he was on the night Pyle died. Fowler claims that he was drinking at a hotel bar, the Continental, at 6:10 PM, and later talked to another reporter, Wilkins, at 6:45, just before going to see a film. Vigot calmly points out that Fowler has kept these facts very clear in his head, and he adds that Fowler has misremembered the times by about ten minutes. In response, Fowler shows Vigot his watch, proving that it always runs about ten minutes fast.
Even though we know how Pyle was killed, we don’t exactly understand who caused his death. Fowler’s alibi is hardly convincing: Greene has already established in an earlier section that Fowler’s watch is on time, meaning that he must have set it ahead to fit his story. Similarly, Fowler’s perfect memory of his behavior that evening suggests that he’s hiding something. Again Vigot seems more interested in satisfying his curiosity than in prosecuting someone.
Themes
Impartiality and Action Theme Icon
Inevitability of Death Theme Icon
Friendship, Loyalty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Fowler tells Vigot, who continues to look at him with a vague suspicion, that he has nothing more to explain about Pyle’s death. Vigot stands to leave. Just before he goes, he points out how odd it was for Fowler to see the film that he claims to have seen—Robin Hood. With this, he walks out. Alone, Fowler drinks and thinks about Phuong and Pyle. He admits the truth to himself: he did see Pyle the night he died.
The simplistic division of good and evil on display in Robin Hood contrasts ironically with the complicated blending of good and evil in The Quiet American. Unlike in a Hollywood movie, wrongs are not always righted in the real world: thus, Fowler keeps his guilt and complicity in Pyle’s death to himself.
Themes
Vietnam and the West Theme Icon
Impartiality and Action Theme Icon
Inevitability of Death Theme Icon
Friendship, Loyalty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
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