The Quiet American

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The Quiet American Part 4, Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The final chapter begins shortly after Vigot questions Fowler about Pyle’s death. Phuong has returned from the film Fowler sent her to see. Phuong mentions that she saw Granger there, laughing at the film even though it wasn’t funny. Fowler nods and says that Granger has much to celebrate—his son has been saved from his polio infection. Phuong mentions that Fowler has a received a telegram. Fowler opens the message—it’s from Helen. Helen tells Fowler that she’s reconsidered, and is now willing to grant Fowler a divorce. Fowler explains the news to Phuong, and she is overjoyed.
Curiously, Fowler seems almost to envy Granger, much as he envied the tourists who complained about the Vietnamese in the previous part of the novel. Granger is obnoxious, but he’s free of the moral anxiety that Fowler will have to deal with for the rest of his life. It’s ironic that Helen finally grants Fowler the divorce he’s been asking for—if Helen had made up her mind a little sooner, Fowler would be with Phuong, and Pyle might still be alive.
Themes
Vietnam and the West Theme Icon
Impartiality and Action Theme Icon
Friendship, Loyalty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Romance and Sex Theme Icon
Fowler notices the copy of The Role of the West on his bookshelf. He asks Phuong if she misses Pyle at all, and tells her that she says his name in her dreams sometimes. He suggests that she wants to see the great American sights: the Grand Canyon, the Empire State Building, etc. Phuong denies this, saying that she only wants to see the Cheddar Gorge, a relatively obscure U.K. natural landmark.
Even here, when Fowler doesn’t have to worry about Pyle any longer, he can’t shake the suspicion that Phuong still loves Pyle. This suggests that Fowler will continue to struggle with his own guilt, and any “victory” he has achieved in “winning” Phuong will always be tarnished by Pyle’s death.
Themes
Vietnam and the West Theme Icon
Friendship, Loyalty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Romance and Sex Theme Icon
Phuong and Fowler kiss. Fowler thinks: everything has gone right since Pyle’s death. Nevertheless, Fowler wishes there was someone to whom he could say, “I’m sorry.”
Greene ends by reminding us of the paradox of Fowler’s character. He’s capable of lying, manipulating, and, ultimately, killing, while at the same time, he’s moral enough to recognize that he has done these things, and to feel great guilt and self-hatred for them. Many of his sins in fact seem to stem from how sensitive he is, and how he tries to become calloused in order to hide or drown out his own suffering. Yet in the end, Fowler never confesses to the “murder.” He continues on with Phuong, who also seems totally unconcerned by Pyle’s death, leaving us feeling ambivalent and unsatisfied—as is the nature of the conflict in Vietnam, and often of life itself.
Themes
Impartiality and Action Theme Icon
Inevitability of Death Theme Icon
Friendship, Loyalty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Romance and Sex Theme Icon