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.
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
...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
Part 2, Chapter 2, Section 3
Part 2, Chapter 3, Section 1
Part 4, Chapter 3
...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)