The Quiet American

The Quiet American

Helen Fowler Character Analysis

Thomas Fowler’s wife Helen Fowler appears in the novel through the letters she sends her husband from England. She is a Roman Catholic, and thus unwilling to grant Fowler the divorce he requests—but her letters offer unique insights into Fowler’s personality. Even when Fowler lies to himself about his love for Phuong, Helen cleverly points out the truth about his relationship with Phuong—a truth that Fowler himself hadn’t realized. Ironically, Helen does finally grant Fowler a divorce at the end of the novel—but had she done so only a few months earlier, most of the important events in the novel, including Pyle’s death, might not have occurred.
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Helen Fowler Character Timeline in The Quiet American

The timeline below shows where the character Helen Fowler appears in The Quiet American. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 4, Section 2
Vietnam and the West Theme Icon
Friendship, Loyalty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Romance and Sex Theme Icon
...youth too.” Fowler tells Pyle that he himself can’t marry Phuong, because he has a wife, Helen, back in England—-a Catholic who refuses to divorce. Pyle seems relieved by this news.... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 1
Friendship, Loyalty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Romance and Sex Theme Icon
Alone with Phuong, Fowler goes to write a letter to his wife, Helen. In the letter, he tells her that he’s returning to England, and asks her... (full context)
Vietnam and the West Theme Icon
Romance and Sex Theme Icon
...come home with him even if he doesn’t succeed in getting a divorce from his wife. Phuong packs a pipe full of opium, and inhales. She asks Fowler if there are... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 2, Section 3
Vietnam and the West Theme Icon
Inevitability of Death Theme Icon
Friendship, Loyalty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Romance and Sex Theme Icon
...tells Pyle about his most “meaningful” experience with a woman. The woman was neither his wife nor Phuong, but rather another woman he met in Vietnam. Now, he admits, he’s afraid... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 3, Section 1
Vietnam and the West Theme Icon
Friendship, Loyalty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Romance and Sex Theme Icon
...and asks her if she would have left him had the telegram been from Fowler’s wife, Helen. Phuong doesn’t answer the question, but tells Fowler that there is a letter from... (full context)
Friendship, Loyalty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Romance and Sex Theme Icon
Fowler opens the letter from his wife. In it, she tells him that she’ll never divorce him—both because of her religious convictions... (full context)
Friendship, Loyalty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Romance and Sex Theme Icon
Fowler finishes reading his wife’s letter, without displaying any outward signs of his distress or anger. When Phuong asks what... (full context)
Friendship, Loyalty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Romance and Sex Theme Icon
...refers to the heroic deed as “saving me from an uncomfortable end.” He says that Helen has agreed to divorce him, meaning that Pyle “need not worry” about Phuong any longer.... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 3
Vietnam and the West Theme Icon
Impartiality and Action Theme Icon
Friendship, Loyalty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Romance and Sex Theme Icon
...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.... (full context)